Not on Treatment
Not everybody with HIV needs to take HIV treatment straight away. It's different for different people, but it usually takes several years after infection before it is required.
If you are not taking HIV treatment, HIV can attack and weaken your immune system (the body's natural defences against infections). When HIV has done a lot of damage to the immune system, you are likely to become vulnerable to infections that you would normally be able to fight off.
HIV also causes inflammation in various parts of the body. This can increase the risk of a number of illnesses. These include cardiovascular disease (for example, heart attack and stroke), kidney or liver problems and some cancers. The damage that HIV causes happens slowly, often over a number of years. It is often the case that a person feels well during this time but even if you believe you are in good health, HIV is likely to be causing damage to your immune system.
Even if you do not need to start treatment, it is very important that you have regular check-ups at a specialist clinic. This could be once every three to six months, depending on the status of infection. Check-ups provide an opportunity for HIV doctors and other healthcare professionals to monitor the effect of HIV on your body.
This will involve a number of blood tests. Two of the most important are a CD4 cell count and viral load test. Looking at the results of these and other tests will help you and your doctor makes a decision about starting HIV treatment.