More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, and roughly half have the virus under control. People who control HIV through treatment – called viral suppression – live longer, healthier lives. For a person to achieve viral suppression, several steps must be completed, including diagnosis, getting in HIV care and staying in HIV care.
Taking proactive steps
If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV, the most important next step is to get into medical care. Taking medicine to treat HIV slows the progression of the virus and helps protect your immune system.
“Taking my medicine has become just as natural as breathing,” says Ryan, a participant in CDC’s “HIV Treatment Works” campaign. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2014, but didn’t let barriers like stigma or discrimination prevent him from getting in medical care after his diagnosis. “Stigma prevents people from wanting to stay in care because they don’t want to be judged,” notes Ryan. “You can’t beat HIV without treating it. Treatment is the most important part of HIV care.”
Getting medical care and staying on treatment can keep you healthy and help protect others. If you’re taking medicine to treat HIV, visit your health care provider regularly and always take your medicine as directed to keep your viral load suppressed. “I was undetectable by my next doctor’s visit,” said Ryan. “When I saw the numbers, I was really encouraged.” A person living with HIV who becomes and remains virally suppressed can stay healthy and has effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV.
Live longer and live better
Thanks to better care and treatment, people living with HIV not only live longer, but also live well. Getting in care and on treatment will help you learn more about HIV and make decisions to take care of your health. “There are resources out there,” said Ryan. Health departments, community-based organizations, and other partners can link you to care. Being aware of your overall health can help you manage your HIV and improve your well-being. “Take responsibility for HIV,” Ryan continued. “Don’t let HIV discourage you from loving, being and taking care of yourself.”