WHAT IT MEANS Resistance is HIV’s secret weapon against the medications you take to fight it. When the virus isn’t under the full control of your treatment, it reproduces, making billions of copies daily. And many of the new copies contain mistakes, or “mutations”—slightly different versions against which the medications may fail to work.
WHY IT MATTERS Because resistance is a danger to the success of your HIV treatment—and ultimately to your health—minimizing your risk of developing it is an important priority. The best way to do this is by taking your meds exactly on schedule—every dose, every day. Sticking to this schedule is called adherence, and it keeps enough drugs in your body to limit HIV’s ability to reproduce and mutate. Taking every dose every day for months or even years is more than most mortals can manage. But understanding the benefits of keeping your virus under constant control can help motivate you.
TESTING, TESTING… You need to know if your virus has resistance when making decisions about which drugs to take. The more resistance you have developed, the fewer treatment options you are likely to have. There are two types of resistance testing. The genotypic test measures your virus for specific mutations known to cause specific HIV drugs to fail. (Each HIV med has its own set of mutations.) The phenotypic test measures the amount of a specific HIV drug necessary to keep your HIV from reproducing, compared with the “normal,” recommended amount. Because it shows whether a drug is actually effective against your virus, the phenotypic test is more accurate—but it also costs more and takes longer. FOR MORE ABOUT RESISTANCE TESTING AND OTHER HIV BLOOD WORK, CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR SPECIAL LAB WORK REPORT—FEATURING THE REAL-LIFE BLOOD TESTS OF HIVER MICHELLE LOPEZ. NOTE TO ROOKIES Now that the use of HIV meds is so widespread, more and more people are infected with virus that has already developed resistance. That is why resistance testing is essential before you and your doctor discuss which drugs you should take.
ON THE RISE
1 in 4 new cases of HIV infection in San Francisco is resistant to some classes of anti-retroviral drugs.
3 RESISTANCE WARNING SIGNS 1. You started treatment several months back and your viral load is not undetectable. 2. Your viral load goes from undetectable to detectable (we’re not talking a one-time “blip”). 3. Your detectable viral load is increasing, even though you’re on treatment.