Taking ARVs over many years can have long term side effects. They differ from person to person and some people may not have side effects. If you have any long term side effects, it is best to talk to your healthcare worker about medication to manage them. There are medications to manage long term side effects, but there are also some things you can do to stay healthy.

Common long term side effects of ARVs

Common long term side effects of ARVs

Things you can do to stay healthy


Keep your weight down through diet and exercise, and stop smoking

High cholesterol

Exercise and eat a healthy diet with plenty of fiber

Kidney (renal) disease

Get regular tests of your kidney, drink plenty of water, cut down on salt, and eat a healthy diet

Heart disease

Keep your weight down through exercise and diet, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol, and reduce stress

Hepatitis/liver problems

Get regular tests of your liver health, cut down on alcohol and drug use - it is best not to drink or use drugs at all


Get screened for specific cancers regularly, especially if there is a history of any type of cancer in your family (screenings include a Pap smear cervical cancer, chest x-rays for lung cancer, and anal pap smear for anal cancer), stop smoking, exercise, and eat foods that can help prevent cancers

Nervous system problems (sleeping problems, depression, dizziness)

Keep your weight down through exercise and diet, eat small balance meals often, get enough sleep, cut down on alcohol use, and exercise your nervous system by playing mind games and doing other activities that will keep your mind busy, and writing with your hand


Taking ARVs and other medication for age-related illnesses

If you are taking different medications at the same time, there is a chance that your body can have a bad reaction when you mix the different medications, and this can lead to disorders associated with old-age, such as memory loss, problems controlling urine, and balance problems associated with falling. Some medicines may not mix well with ARVs and may reduce their effectiveness. Make sure that your healthcare worker knows about every medication and supplement that you are taking, even if you do not use them all the time. This includes prescription medications, over-the-counter products, vitamins and natural remedies or herbs given to you by a traditional health practitioner. Your healthcare worker must know what you are taking and may need to change your medicines, their doses or the times that you take your pills to prevent any negative interactions.

Medicines that are commonly prescribed for older people and which do not always mix well with ARVs include:

  • Statins for high cholesterol;
  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs for heart conditions;
  • Blood-thinning tablets; * Antidepressants;
  • Diabetes medication;
  • Hormone-replacement therapy used during menopause;
  • Erectile dysfunction drugs;
  • Benzodiazepine drugs for anxiety or sleeplessness;
  • Hypertension drugs used to treat high blood pressure.

If you are taking any of these, your healthcare worker will advise you on the best way to take you treatment along with your ARVs and will tell you if you need to change any of your medicines.

"Sometimes when I'm not feeling ok and my cholesterol is high, it has nothing to do with HIV, it is my lifestyle, like the way I eat. I can address that; and I need to deal with that. For me the healthy lifestyle does contribute to my overall health." Oziel Mdletshe.

Can I still have sex?

You are never too old for sex! But you are also never too old to get infected with HIV, or to transmit HIV to a partner, even if you are virally suppressed. You can also be infected with STIs at any age, so it is important to ensure that you and your partner are protected by using a condom every time you have sex. If you experience any uncomfortable or unusual problems during sex, you should speak to your healthcare worker about these.