Your first steps start here.

After receiving an HIV diagnosis, it’s important to learn more about HIV and begin treatment as soon as possible.

What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a virus that weakens the immune system by destroying cells that fight disease and infection. While there’s currently no cure, today’s treatments can help lower the amount of HIV in your system to a point where it is undetectable,* allowing you to lead a long, healthy life.

*Undetectable is defined as the amount of HIV in the blood being below 50 copies/mL, meaning it cannot be measured by a lab test.

Stages of HIV.

Stage 01:

Acute HIV infection

Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection, some people may experience flu-like symptoms—while others may not feel sick at all. Even if you feel all right, it’s important to get tested if you think you may have been exposed to HIV.

Stage 02:

Chronic HIV infection

If the amount of HIV in your blood (also known as the viral load) goes up, the amount of CD4+ white blood cells that fight infections goes down. However, taking medication as prescribed can lower your viral load and prevent HIV from progressing to the next stage.

Stage 03:


HIV can turn into AIDS if your CD4+ cell count falls below 200 cells/mm3 or if you develop certain infections. However, starting treatment right away and staying on treatment as prescribed can prevent HIV from turning into AIDS.

Undetectable = Untransmittable

The goal of treatment is to lower the level of HIV in your blood to the point where it can’t be detected in a blood test. This is known as being undetectable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the  (DHHS), people who reach and stay undetectable after 6 months of HIV treatment have effectively no risk of transmitting the virus through sex.*

*Maintaining a viral load of <200 copies/mL does not prevent acquisition or transmission of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to reduce the risk of STIs.

Starting treatment sooner.

Your overall health can benefit from starting treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis. National treatment guidelines recommend healthcare providers prescribe treatment immediately after diagnosis instead of waiting for lab results. This rapid start may help patients reach an undetectable level of HIV in their blood sooner. It may also decrease the likelihood of transmitting HIV, along with other health benefits.

Reach out to your healthcare provider when you’re ready to start treatment. You can also find HIV medical providers through the HRSA website or your local AIDS Service Organization (ASO).

Treatment Questions to Ask Your DoctorRed arrow icon

Why start treating quickly?

Benefits of starting treatment upon diagnosis

  • Helps decrease the chances of transmitting HIV
  • Lowers your viral load to undetectable
  • Helps you stay engaged in a treatment plan
  • Decreases health-related complications caused by HIV and other HIV-related illnesses

“It was important to start my treatment right away.”

–Brandon, SYMTUZA® patient

Finding the right treatment.

The following 3 tests help determine what medication may be best for you.

CD4+ count

CD4+ cells are white blood cells that fight infections, including HIV. Measuring the number of CD4+ cells in your blood helps your healthcare provider understand how well your immune system is working. The goal of treatment is to keep your CD4+ count as high as possible.

Viral load test

Your viral load tells you how much HIV virus is currently in your blood. Most of today’s treatments, if taken as prescribed, can get your viral load to undetectable. This means that it has reached such a low level that it is not able to be seen in a blood test.

Drug-resistance testing

This testing aims to determine whether there are any treatment options that may not be effective against your specific strain of HIV. If the virus becomes resistant to a drug and you continue to take it, the resistant HIV virus will continue to multiply.

Learn more about drug resistanceRed arrow icon

Danny, SYMTUZA® patient doing chinupsDanny, SYMTUZA® patient doing chinups

“Diagnosis was an opportunity to take care of myself.”

–Danny, SYMTUZA® patient

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