Current Ways to Treat AIDS

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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, is a complication of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV damages the immune system, the cells in the body which fight infections. This disease is not curable, but may be controlled for decades. Advances have been made in medical science so that many patients with HIV never develop AIDS.

Medication is the primary way of managing HIV and AIDS. There are a number of classifications of medication, each of which inhibits the reproduction of the virus in its own way. Many medical professionals recommend combining at least three medications from at least two different classifications. Relying on only one type of anti-HIV medication may have the potential to cause the virus to mutate and become resistant to a particular medication. Anti-HIV medications currently on the market include:

  • Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs) – These medications disable a protein the HIV needs to duplicate itself. Efavirenz, etravirine, and nevirapine are some examples of this classification.

  • Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) – NRTIs create defective copies of the elements HIV needs to reproduce itself, inhibiting reproduction of HIV cells. Examples include Abacavir, emtricitabine-tenofovir, and lamivudine-zidovudine.

  • Protease Inhibitors (PIs) – Protease is a protein that HIV uses to replicate itself. PIs disable protease, reducing the ability of HIV to progress. Some PIs include atazanavir, darunavir, and fosamprenavir.

  • Entry/Fusion Inhibitors – HIV damages the immune system by attacking specific white blood cells known as CD4 cells. Entry Inhibitors protect the CD4 cells, making it more difficult for the virus to enter them. Enfuvirtide and maraviroc fall into this category.

  • Integrase Inhibitors – HIV uses a protein called integrase to insert itself into the CD4 cells. Medications such as raltegravir, elvitegravir, and dolutegravir disable integrase.

Treatment of HIV may be physically and emotionally difficult. An HIV-positive patient may have to take several pills on a strict schedule for the rest of his/her life. These medications may cause unpleasant side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakening of bones, loss of muscle tissue, elevated blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. It is vital that a patient not allow these downsides to deter him/her from seeking treatment. The earlier treatment is begun, the better odds the patient has of living a long life. The goal in HIV treatment is to reduce the amount of virus in the body to an undetectable amount and prevent the disease from progressing to AIDS. The virus being undetectable is not the same as the patient being cured. HIV remains in the patient and the patient can spread the disease.


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