3 Signs Your HIV is Drug-Resistant

  • Serious Business Man
    What is HIV drug resistance?
    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replicates very quickly when left untreated, so much so that it makes numerous mistakes, or mutations, in the process. Sometimes these mutations allow the virus to become resistant to medications used to treat the virus. To help keep the virus from becoming resistant to any one drug, HIV treatment uses a combination of multiple antiretroviral (ART) drugs, but even this strong treatment approach only works when patients take their medicines every day. The most common cause of HIV drug resistance is not taking HIV medications as directed. Another cause could be a result of medicines that can interfere with the absorption or the effectiveness of HIV drugs. Here are three signs to watch for that could mean your virus has developed drug resistance.

  • Young Caucasian man wrapped in blanket on couch with cough due to cold or pneumonia
    1. You’re experiencing flu-like symptoms.
    Most patients experience flu-like symptoms when they are first infected with HIV, including: fevers, body aches, night sweats, sore throat, and rash. These same symptoms can happen while on HIV medications if your virus “breaks through” due to HIV drug resistance. If you experience symptoms of acute viral infection while on HIV medications, it’s important to contact your doctor for further testing.

  • doctor looking at results with patient
    2. Your viral load is detectable.
    Part of treating HIV is following up regularly with your doctor to ensure the HIV viral load, or the amount of HIV replicating in your bloodstream, remains undetectable. The primary goal of HIV treatment is to keep the viral load at undetectable levels, so if there is suddenly a large amount of detectable virus in your blood, then there is a failure in treatment. Treatment failure, whether because you were not taking your medications every day, or for other reasons, often means that HIV drug resistance has developed.

  • doctor diagnosis
    3. Your genotype test can detect drug resistance.
    If your doctor finds your viral load is suddenly detectable when it wasn’t before, a special blood test called a genotype will be performed to determine if drug resistance has developed. If HIV drug resistance is confirmed, then you will need to be switched to new HIV medicines that will work against the resistant virus.

  • Pills in hand
    Adhere to your medication regime to prevent drug resistance.
    If you do find out that your virus has developed resistance, you and your doctor should be aware of the risk of cross resistance when choosing a new medication. If your virus is resistant to a drug from a certain class of antiretrovirals, there’s a chance it will be resistant to other drugs within the same class.

3 Signs Your HIV is Drug-Resistant

About The Author

Dr. Ron Trible, Ph.D., is a full-time clinical infectious diseases specialist at Georgia Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia. View his Healthgrades profile >
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THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.
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