If you think you have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention. It is possible that treatment, called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may prevent you from becoming infected. The sooner the treatment is started, the more effective it will be. PEP is only recommended following high risk exposure, such as intercourse with someone who is known to be HIV positive, because it is a month-long treatment with potentially serious side effects. It involves taking drugs that are usually prescribed for people who are HIV positive, in an attempt to prevent infection, but it is not guaranteed to work, so it is better to avoid exposure in the first place.
If you have tested positive for HIV, you will be undergoing regular blood tests to monitor the progress of the infection. This is done by testing the level of CD4+ve lymphocyte cells. Treatment is usually recommended if their number falls below 350, although treatment may begin earlier if you have other medical conditions. The aim of treatment is to lower the number of HIV cells in your body to allow it to heal itself. If you are on HIV treatment and the virus levels in your blood are generally low, you are unlikely to pass the virus on to someone else.
HIV is treated with anti-retroviral drugs that work by stopping the virus from replicating in the body. Once treatment is started, it will most likely be continued for the rest of your life. For the medication to be effective, it needs to be taken every day at the same time. Not taking you medication regularly can reduce its effectiveness and cause it to fail.
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