Fact Check: HIV Medication Does NOT Weaken Immune System; Body CANNOT Reverse HIV/AIDS On Its Own

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: HIV Medication Does NOT Weaken Immune System; Body CANNOT Reverse HIV/AIDS On Its Own Saves Lives

Does HIV medication weaken the immune system and worsen the condition and can the body reverse HIV/AIDS by itself? No, those claims are not true: An infectious disease expert told Lead Stories that HIV medication, known as antiretroviral therapy, strengthens the immune system by reducing viral load and helping it function better. The body cannot typically reverse HIV/AIDS by itself. If left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS, weakening the immune system severely.

The claims appeared in a post and video (archived here) published on Instagram by Minister Yahdan Yada on February 26, 2024. The post's caption said:

πŸ”₯ πŸ”₯ Do you agree that the body is a self healing organism? Apple of Eve is now restocked!! #ministeryahdanyada #yadaawakening #yada

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Mon Mar 4 16:43:53 2024 UTC)

The video

During the 89-second clip, Yada, who identifies himself as a "multifaceted entrepreneur; herbalist, teacher, speaker, husband, and father," but not a health care professional, opens with a confusing and inaccurate story about the history of HIV and says, "Of course we can reverse HIV." Then, 58 seconds into the clip, Yada suggests that the body can cure any illness and that the medicines designed to treat HIV instead hurt the immune system. Here's what he said:

Listen to me. There's not one illness within the body that cannot be reversed. If they're saying this is a virus of the immune system or deficiency of the immune system, this tells you to rebuild your immune system. But if you start taking these medications, what do these do to your immune system? It lowers your immune system. They compromise your immune system even more, and that's why people that have HIV, their wounds don't heal properly because that's a sign that their immune system has become compromised.

While downplaying the medicines used to treat HIV, Yada is promoting supplements he profits from selling. The social media post's caption also mentions a product called Apple of Eve (archived here), which the listing on Yada's website calls the "superfood of superfoods," adding "our liquid supplement is truly one of its kind, and is one of the greatest tools in aiding the immune system." He advertises the product at $125 for a 16-ounce bottle -- $100 per bottle with a monthly subscription.

HIV experts

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Lead Stories in a March 4, 2024, phone interview that there's no truth to the notion that HIV drugs weaken the immune system:

The wonderful thing about the medications [is] that they interfere with the multiplication of the virus. All of a sudden, the virus becomes static and it can't multiply. If it can't multiply, it cannot infect new cells in the immune system.

So patients, if they maintain themselves on the medication, what happens gradually, is that their partially impaired and destroyed immune system begins to reconstitute itself. So, the medications actually create an environment where the body can reconstitute itself, its immune system, and people can lead a near-normal life today if they have HIV infection.

Additionally, Schaffner said, "It's clear that the body cannot clear itself of the virus." It has to have help. He continued:

That's true of 99.999% of people with HIV infection, where they have a slow-smoldering infection that can go on for quite a considerable period of time -- 10 years -- and all of a sudden, at that time, the immune system has been degraded, such that they become very susceptible to these infections. And as we learned before these medications were available, tragically, it became essentially a universally fatal infection.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Office of Media Affairs said the following, echoing Schaffner, in a March 4, 2024, email to Lead Stories, writing:

According to the FDA website, 'HIV medications, known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), slow down the progression of the disease in your body by lowering the amount of HIV in your blood. This keeps the immune system strong enough to fight off other infections.' The HIV medication does not weaken the immune system nor worsen the condition. Also, 'the human body cannot get rid of the virus and no effective cure exists.'

The FDA has additional information on its website:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

About HIV and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research's role

Department of Health and Human Services

A spokesperson with the Department of Health and Human Services provided this response in a March 4, 2024 email to Lead Stories regarding the claim that HIV medication weakens the immune system. The response stated (emphasis theirs):

No, HIV treatment helps people live healthier, longer lives. In fact, people with HIV are living longer now compared to when HIV was first discovered. People with HIV who take HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can stay healthy and will not transmit HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.


In a March 4, 2024, email, Robert Kessler, program communications manager at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, said the antiretroviral therapy used to treat HIV has proven itself. He told Lead Stories:

HIV medications are safe and effective and have prevented millions of deaths in the decades they've safely been used around the world.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has additional details on HIV treatment on its website.

Schaffner concluded his phone interview with Lead Stories, saying "HIV care has become outpatient medicine" when using the medicines now available to treat it. He said:

It would be, really, unforgivably sad if the thoughts of this person dissuaded anyone from seeking good medical care if they have HIV infection. We used to have people [at] our hospital ... with late-stage HIV infection, who went on to die. They are rare today.

The only people we see today are people who lead such a chaotic life that they cannot maintain themselves on their medication.

Read more

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to viruses can be found here.


  • 2024-03-05T18:47:08Z 2024-03-05T18:47:08Z
    Adds context from a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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