Positively Adopted

Life with children who have HIV

How do HIV medications work?

The main type of treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral treatment.


This treatment is not a cure, but it can stop people from becoming ill for many many years. The treatment consists of drugs that must be taken daily for the rest of a person’s life.


These drugs are often referred to as:

  • antiretrovirals
  • anti-HIV or anti-AIDS drugs
  • HIV antiviral drugs
  • ARVs


The aim of antiretroviral treatment is to keep the amount of HIV in the body at a low level. This stops any weakening of the immune system and allows it to recover from any damage that HIV might have already caused.


Taking two or more antiretroviral drugs at a time is called combination therapy. Taking a combination of three or more anti-HIV drugs is sometimes referred to as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy or HAART.

What about side effects?

The most common side effects from antiretroviral medications (ARVs) in children are digestive problems such as diarrhea and nausea, which can often be managed with dietary changes. 


"Usually most side effects are not serious and improve once the patient gets used to the medicines."  -Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS


As with ALL medications there are possible side effects such as fatigue

anemia, lipodystrophy, skin problems, neuropathy, mitochondrial toxicity, bone issues.


However don't assume your child will experience any. Many parents report that their child does not experience any side effects at all. Also there are over 30 medications available for the treatment of HIV and some may work better than others for different individuals.


"Our daughter has been on HIV meds for 7 years now and we've never noticed any side effects at all."  -Chantelle

"The only side effect we've seen from the ARV's is diarrhea, and that's only occasionally."  -Mary C.

To learn more about HIV medications: