Treating HIV

There is no cure for HIV infection – at least, not yet. However, there are medications for treating HIV, called antiretroviral drugs. When used properly, these medications can all but stop HIV from replicating, allowing the immune system to retain (or rebuild) its strength and keep the body healthy.


HIV treatment means taking a combination of antiretroviral drugs. These drug combinations go by the names ART (antiretroviral therapy) or HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy).

What do antiretroviral drugs do?

As long as HIV is left untreated, it continues to infect cells inside the body. It uses these cells to make millions of copies of itself, which then infect other cells, and so on. This process, called viral replication, eventually damages the immune system, and leaves the body vulnerable to serious diseases.

The goal of antiretroviral drugs is to block this replication process.

“Suppressing” HIV in this way allows the immune system to rebuild itself and become stronger.

Can someone with HIV still infect other people if they are taking antiretroviral drugs?

Yes, it’s still possible to transmit HIV during sex even when taking antiretroviral drugs. While it’s true that treatment may reduce the chances of transmitting HIV in some circumstances, there are many uncertainties involved. It’s unwise to think of HIV drug treatment as a replacement for safer sex.

Read more:

What are HIV and AIDS?

Protecting yourself from HIV

Getting tested for HIV

Treating HIV


This information was provided by CATIE (Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange).
For more information, contact CATIE at 1.800.263.1638 or

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