What you should know about HIV treatment

ART prevents HIV from multiplying. (rawpixel.com pic)

Standard antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of this disease.

Doctors recommend ART for HIV treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis without any restrictions of CD4 count, the cells that the HIV virus kills.

ART is not a cure, but it prevents HIV from multiplying.

Thus, this antiviral medicine reduces the amount of HIV in your body. As a result, ART reduces the virus load and significantly decreases the HIV transmission rate.

This gives you a chance for a longer life and lowers the risk of transmitting HIV to others. It also decreases levels of opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and certain kinds of cancer.

Having less HIV virus in your body helps your immune system to mend and repel all kinds of infections and cancers.

Although there is still some HIV in your body, your immune system is strong enough to fight off these illnesses.

By reducing the amount of HIV in your body, the HIV medicine also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Therefore ART not only saves individual lives but it also lowers the collective viral load of communities, significantly reducing the rate of HIV transmission.

ART is highly recommended for every patient fighting against HIV, regardless of the period of time you have been suffering from HIV and your health condition.

If left untreated, HIV will attack your immune system and eventually progress to AIDS.

The main types of antiretroviral medication for HIV treatment are:

  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) such as zidovudine (Retrovir), abacavir (Ziagen) and emtricitabine (Emtriva), all of which prevent an enzyme that HIV needs to replicate itself in a cell.
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) such as efavirenz (Sustiva), etravirine (Intelence) and nevirapine (Viramune), which target the same enzyme as NRTIs, but with a different chemical structure.
  • Protease inhibitors (PIs) such as atazanavir (Reyataz), ritonavir (Norvir) and tipranavir (Aptivus), which stop the production of one component of HIV.
  • Entry inhibitors, which block the entry of HIV into CD4 cells. This kind of drug includes two divisions:
  1. CCR5 antagonists (also called entry inhibitors), such as maraviroc (Selzentry) which blocks CCR5, a receptor protein on the surface of CD4 cells (immune system cells) that the virus binds to in order to enter the cell.
  2. Fusion inhibitors, such as enfuvirtide (Fuzeon) which also block HIV’s ability to enter CD4 cells.

There are also integrase inhibitors such as dolutegravir (Tivicay), elvitegravir (Vitekta) and raltegravir (Isentress) which block HIV from inserting its viral DNA into host cells.

ARV reduces the viral load, the number of virus in your bloodstream. People with undetectable viral loads stay healthier and live longer. They are less likely to transmit an HIV infection to others

This article first appeared on Hello Doktor. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.