HIV and AIDS Treatment Options

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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Although people sometimes use HIV and AIDS interchangeably, the two terms refer to different things.  According to the government website aids.gov, HIV (which stands for human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that can cause the disease AIDS (which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Being HIV-positive doesn’t necessarily mean you have AIDS, says aids.gov. If you or someone you love is infected with HIV or has developed AIDS, here’s some useful information about HIV treatment options, AIDS treatment, and your options under Medicare.

How do doctors treat HIV/AIDS?

While there is no cure for HIV, there are HIV treatment options that help slow the virus’s ability to reproduce, and increase your body’s ability to fight off infection reports the National Institute of Health (NIH) Library of Medicine.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the recommended HIV treatment consists of a regimen of medications called Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) breaks these into five classes of prescription drugs:

  • RT inhibitors, which interfere with the virus’s ability to reproduce
  • Protease inhibitors, which help block HIV from producing infectious particles
  • Fusion inhibitors, which help prevent HIV from entering cells in the body
  • Integrase inhibitors, which also help stop an enzyme the virus needs to reproduce
  • Multidrug combinations, which combine two or more ART medications

The Food and Drug Administration says it’s important to take your medications exactly as prescribed, and recommends the following tips to help you stay on track:

  • Write your medications in a daily planner or schedule.
  • Set alarms on your watch or phone to remind you to take your medications.
  • Use a pillbox to organize your ART medications.
  • Enlist the help of a friend or family member.

What AIDS treatment is available?

AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, can only be diagnosed by your health-care provider, according to aids.gov

AIDS treatment might begin with the ART regimen recommended for anyone with the HIV virus. From there, medical AIDS treatment involves treating the infections and diseases associated with AIDS, which will vary depending on which conditions you develop, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Does Medicare cover AIDS treatment and HIV treatment?

Fortunately, almost all antiretrovirals used in HIV treatment are in a protected class, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This means that under Medicare Part D, all stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans must include these drugs in their plan formularies. Although plan formularies may change from time to time, antiretroviral drugs must remain covered. There may be some exceptions in coverage, such as medications with the same active ingredient.

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) generally covers all eligible, medically necessary hospital stays, outpatient treatments, doctor visits, tests, and therapies your doctor recommends for AIDS treatment. You may be responsible for Part A and Part B deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance amounts.

Depending on where you live, you may be eligible to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan (SNP) designed specifically for people with HIV/AIDS. These plans are structured around the health-care and medication needs of people with HIV/AIDS and may lower your out-of-pocket costs for care. If you are eligible, you may enroll in these plans any time during the year; there is no special enrollment period. You must have HIV/AIDS to qualify, and you must continue to pay your Part B premium if you choose a Medicare Advantage SNP, plus any additional premiums your plan may require.

If you would like more information about Medicare and HIV treatment, I’m available to answer your questions. You can request information by email or schedule a phone consultation by clicking one of the links below. To see some plans in your area you may qualify for, click the “Compare Plans” button on this page.

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