Side effects and toxicities

While HIV treatments have had a significant impact on disease progression, they can cause a wide range of short and long term side effects or toxicities. Not everyone gets side-effects from their drugs and not everyone experiences the same side-effects: many are quite rare.

The Futures 7 study of people living with HIV (2013) found that 21.3% of  respondents experienced side effects. The most commonly reported side effects were diarrhoea, nausea and fatigue.

Other side effects include vomiting, headaches, allergic reactions, long term changes in body shape and the redistribution of fat (lipodystrophy). Some side effects are so severe that treatment must be altered or stopped.

Most side effects are temporary and easily managed with changes to dosage, diet, exercise or other medicines (such as anti-diarrhoea or nausea medications).

Newer drugs and improved formulations of existing drugs mean that side effects are generally becoming less of a problem for people with HIV.