Your Guide To...BHIVA Standards of Care for People Living with HIV

3. HIV outpatient care and treatment

If you are in the UK, and diagnosed relatively soon after you acquired HIV, then the care that you are most likely to receive is described in Standard 3 (HIV outpatient care and treatment). This describes how your HIV care should be assessed and delivered. It focuses on physical health. Emotional wellbeing and mental health are discussed in Standard 6 (Psychological care). There are still some circumstances where more complex care is needed. These are described in Standard 4 (Complex HIV care).

Standard 3 - HIV outpatient care and treatment

3c. Antiretroviral prescribing

Modern ART uses several antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), often combined into a single tablet. These ARVs should be prescribed by a qualified HIV specialist. A wide range of ARVs is now available. Your HIV doctor will suggest the best individual treatment for you. This should be based on your physical, mental and social needs, and fit in with your daily schedule.

Your ART will be monitored to make sure it keeps working well. But if your treatment doesn’t work well or if you need to switch for other reasons, you should be offered different ART options.

You should be helped if you are struggling to take ART in the right way or if you have side-effects. If you can’t take it in the way that you should, such as with food, you should be offered other ARVs that are easier to take. You can talk to your doctor about these issues at your regular appointment, or earlier if needed.

ARVs can interact with other drugs. As well as other drugs you may be prescribed, this also includes over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies, supplements, vitamins and additives, and recreational drugs. It doesn’t just apply to tablets you might take – it also applies for ointments, creams, sprays and inhalers, and injections. An interaction could mean that either your ARVs or the other medications don’t work as well as they should. It’s important to check for any possible interactions between your ARVs and any other drugs you might need for some other non-HIV condition. Your HIV healthcare team is well aware of this, as are GPs and pharmacists. They do need to know what drugs you are taking in order to check, so you need to tell them about the whole range of medicines you are taking. If there is an interaction with your ARVs, you could be offered adjusted or different medication. Sometimes, though, it may be necessary to review and change your ARVs.

Key messages

  • Your ART should be prescribed by a qualified HIV specialist. A wide range of ART is available, using different ARVs. Your doctor should tailor your ARVs to your personal healthcare needs and situation.

  • If for any reason you are prescribed drugs for some non-HIV conditions, the prescriber should check that these drugs don’t interact with your HIV drugs. If you buy drugs over the counter, you should ask the pharmacist for advice about interactions.