Live Positively

If you do test positive for HIV, these resources will help you understand the medicines and support services available to you.

HIV is treated with a combination of medicines that together are called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART is not a cure, but it can help control the virus in your body so that you can live a long, healthy and productive life and reduce your risk of transmitting HIV to others.

ART involves taking a combination of HIV medicines at the same time, every day to prevent HIV from multiplying in your body. If you’re taking ART, even though you’ll still have HIV, the amount of virus in your body will stay small (or be reduced over time) and your body will be strong enough to protect you from disease.

Taking ART also protects your sexual partners. The less virus you have in your body, the less likely you are to transmit the virus to other people. So treatment is important for you and the people you care about!

ART makes it much less likely to transmit HIV to your partners, but it doesn’t make it impossible. Plus, ART doesn’t protect you from being re-infected with other strains of HIV, or from other sexually-transmitted infections like syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia, which could complicate your treatment. Even if you’re taking ART, it’s important to continue using other prevention strategies such as the use of condoms and water-based lubricant, and regular STI check-ups.

There are many different medications used to treat HIV. Which combination of medicines you take depends on your own situation. Drugs that work for one person may not work for another, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about which treatments are right for you.

Many people are concerned about side effects from ART treatment. While in the past some HIV treatments caused serious side effects, today they’re generally mild. They often occur when a patient starts treatment and go away after anywhere from a few days to a month. Common side effects include:

  • Anemia (abnormality in red blood cells)
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain and nerve problems
  • Rash

If you experience side effects, don’t stop taking your medicine! Talk to your doctor - you may need to change to a different combination of medicines.

The earlier you begin treatment after becoming infected with HIV, the better for your long-term health. Being on treatment also means you reduce the risk of infecting your partners with HIV. The Thailand Ministry of Public Health now supports people living with HIV to begin immediate treatment, regardless of how long you’ve been infected or the stage of your HIV disease.

If you’re on ART, it’s very important that you take it every day, at the same time, exactly as directed. ART is designed to keep HIV from multiplying in your body – if you continually miss doses, the virus may start multiplying again, and you could develop resistance. This means the medicine you’re taking can no longer stop the virus from multiplying. In this case, you would have to switch to different medicines.

If you do miss a dose, don’t panic! Unless your health care provider tells you otherwise, take the medicine you missed as soon as you realize you skipped it. But if your next treatment is due within 2 hours of less, don’t take the missed dose and instead just continue on your regular medication schedule. Don’t take a double dose of a medicine to make up for a missed dose.

"Thai citizens with an identification card have the right to public funding healthcare (including HIV care and treatment) under Thailand's universal coverage scheme (UCS).

To access your ART using your UCS, you can ask for a patient transfer letter at your primary health care unit before going to your secondary hospital mentioned in your UCS card. Specialized clinics are not everyday available, so you should contact the health care unit beforehand.

If you do not want to go to the registered hospital, you have the right to change secondary hospitals 4 times a year. In case of 'vacant right', meaning that you haven't registered for any hospitals and do not have any benefits from other health schemes, you have to register and select your secondary hospital before getting HIV services.

Check the hospital in UCS system acoss Bangkok here http://bkk.nhso.go.th/pp/stat/mcupmap.php.

If you aren’t sure about your healthcare benefits, visit http://wwwback.nhso.go.th/peoplesearch or call 1330 for the National Health Security Office or 1506 to learn about social security insurance benefits.

Non-Thais seeking HIV treatment in Thailand should check the availability of universal coverage for purchase at their local public hospital.

If you have money and want to pay yourself, HIV treatment is also available in Thailand through private clinics and hospitals."

ART is free to Thai citizens who access treatment under one of the social health protection schemes, at their designated service provider. If you choose to access treatment through a private clinic or hospital, the cost of ART is typically around 4,000 – 5,000 THB per month. Antiretroviral medications are available through the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre (TRCARC) at a cost of about 900 – 1,200 THB per month but you must be under a doctor’s supervision. (Inquiries about purchasing medications from the TRCARC can be made via their hotline at +662-252-2568 to 9 (Mon - Fri 7.30 - 4.00 hr, Sat 8.30 - 16.00 hr) or their webboard.) ART is a lifelong commitment, so when choosing a treatment option it’s important to consider how you will pay for it over time.

There are so many illicit drugs out there and we don't know for sure if either or the combination of any of them will lower the efficacy of your HIV treatment. Thus, it's really important to talk about your drugs consumption with your doctor. If you're talking with doctor from our clinic partners, we guarantee that you will not be in trouble if you open up about your history of drugs use.

But here is what we know so far. If your HIV treatment contains protease inhibitors, taking meth (ice, crystal meth) and amphetamine (E, MDMA, yaba) while you're on treatment can potentially elevate the amount of those illicit substance in your system.

This will increase significantly the negative side effect of the drug and has the potential of being fatal. If the name of your HIV medicine ends with "navir" (i.e., amprenavir, ratazanavir, and darunavir), it is likely that your medicine contains protease inhibitors. But to be 100% sure, always check with your doctor.

When a person living with HIV is taking effective antiretroviral therapy, the amount of HIV in the body (known as viral load) becomes so low that it is undetectable. A person with an undetectable viral load has no chance of passing on HIV.

You’re considered undetectable when your viral load is less than 50 copies per mililitre of blood. The only way to know the number of your viral load is by taking a lab test. Thai citizens are also annually provided 2 viral load tests for free in designated public hospitals.

Over 90% of people on antiretroviral treatment (ART) will have an undetectable viral load within 3 to 6 months of starting treatment, or even earlier for some.

No. If you are undetectable it does not mean you are cured or free of HIV. It simply means that the treatment has stopped the virus from replicating and transmitting to others.

If you stop taking your meds, HIV will be back damaging your immune system. Your health may deteriorate and your risk of passing on HIV dramatically increases. The risk of the HIV in your body becoming drug-resistant will also increase.

No. Viral load can fluctuate and small “blips” can occur, but they’re fairly rare. Regular viral load monitoring is recommended because even if you always remember to take your meds, other health issues may have an impact.

That depends on your circumstances. A basic guide is every three to four months. It is best to speak with your doctor about this in more detail to determine what’s best for you.

​No. CD4 cells are white blood cells that fight infections. When entering our body, HIV targets and infiltrates the cells in our immune system. The CD4 count tells you how many CD4 cells there are in a drop of blood. While you want to have as little viral load as possible, conversely, the more CD4 cells there are, the better. Taking ART regularly will help you having a very low (or undetectable) viral load and a high CD4 count.

​While an undetectable viral load will protect your partner(s) from your HIV, it does not protect them or you from other STIs transmission. Condoms are still important, especially if you’re having sex with multiple partners or in situations when you don’t know if your partner might have an STI.

​​Having an undetectable viral load for at least six months and continuing to stay on medication means you are not putting your partner at risk. There is no moral or legal imperative in Thailand to disclose when you are not putting your partner at risk. However, you may want to consider the pluses and minuses of disclosing for you and your partner. A partner may become upset if they learn about your status after sexual interaction and it can cause unnecessary interpersonal consequences even when there is no risk of transmission. However, if you have a disease or condition that is sexually transmissible, i.e. HIV to take reasonable precautions against transmitting the condition to others.

​​Research indicates that the risk of picking up another strain of HIV is incredibly rare when both of you are undetectable. However, there are other things you should think about – the possibility of STI transmission and/or when your or his last viral load test was.

Remember, you don’t need to go through this alone. You may decide to tell one or some of your close friends before you tell your family. However, you should talk to someone about it because ignoring your HIV status will not make it go away. If you’d like to talk to someone, there are a number of supportive individuals, groups and organisations in Bangkok. Often reaching out and talking to other people is a good way to help you on your treatment journey.

  • Poz Home Centre Foundation

    Address: 38 soi Udomsuk 13, Sukhumvit 103 Rd. Bangna Bangna Bankok 10260
    Phone: 02-3960435 , 02-7475638-9
    Website: www.thepoz.org

  • Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand

    Address: 1 and 2 Soi Ramkhamhaeng 97/2 Ramkhamhaeng Road Huamark Bangkapi 10240
    Phone: 0-2731-6532-3
    Website: www.rsat.info

  • HIV Foundation Thailand

    Address: 149/19-21 Surawongse Road, Bangrak. Bangkok 10500. Thailand
    Phone: 02-6340541
    Website: www.hivfoundation.com/

Treatment Services in Bangkok

  • Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center

    Address: 104 Ratchadamri Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
    Phone 02 256 4107-9
    Email: aids@trcarc.org
    Website: www.trcarc.org

  • SWING Clinic

    Address: 5th Floor, Building No.3 Soi Patpong 1, Surawong Road Bangkok, Thailand 10500
    Phone: +662 632 9501 - 2
    Email: admin@swingthailand.org
    Website: www.swingthailand.org

  • Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand

    Address: 1 and 2 Soi Ramkhamhaeng 97/2 Ramkhamhaeng Road Huamark Bangkapi 10240
    Phone: 0-2731-6532-3
    Website: www.rsat.info