HIV is no longer the death sentence it was when we started thirty years ago, that almost goes without saying. The introduction of effective antiretroviral treatment has enabled most who are diagnosed with HIV to live quite normal, active lives, with minimal impact on their life expectancy.

Rob, interviewed below by the Terrence Higgins Trust, explains in detail what HIV treatment has done for him.

Types of treatment

PrEP: Pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, is a course of drugs that can be taken by HIV-negative people in order to significantly reduce their risk of contracting the virus. It is currently being trialled by the NHS in England and Wales. You can find out more about the treatment by visiting I Want PrEP Now's website.

PEP: Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a treatment that can be prescribed to those with reason to believe they have come into contact with the virus e.g. a condom breaking during intercourse with an HIV-positive partner. It is most effective when taken within 24 hours, and unlikely to work after 72 hours. You can find out all you need to know about PEP via the Terrence Higgins Trust here.

ART: Antiretroviral medications, sometimes abbreviated to ART, are what is most commonly prescribed to those who have been diagnosed as HIV-positive. This is also often referred to as 'combination therapy' as it usually involves taking three different drugs at once. To get more information about ART you can visit the NHS website here.

Long and short-term impact

It is recommended that any HIV-positive person begins treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis. Within six months, their viral load should decrease to an undetectable level, meaning that it is highly unlikely they will be able to infect a sexual partner.

Side effects from HIV medication are common, although not inevitable, and if they do present themselves usually disappear on their own. These can include things such as diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches and fatigue. If any side effects persist, it may be possible for a patient to avoid them by altering their medication, subsequent to consulting with their doctor.

Provided a patient keeps taking their medication as prescribed, and maintains a relatively healthy lifestyle, it is unlikely that being HIV-positive will impact their day-to-day lives, or significantly reduce their life expectancy.

Further information

We recommend the following sources for more detailed information regarding HIV:


Terrence Higgins Trust

British HIV Association