Why Is It Important to Take Your HIV Drugs?

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Standard antiretroviral therapy (ART) includes the combination of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to maximally suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease. Doctors recommend ART for all people with HIV as soon as possible after diagnosis without any restrictions of CD4 counts.

ART is not a cure, but these HIV drugs prevent HIV from multiplying.

Thus, these antiviral medicines reduce the amount of HIV in your body. As a result, ART declines the virus load and significantly decrease the HIV transmission rate, which gives you the chance to have a long-lived, healthy life and to lower the risk of transmitting HIV to others. Besides, it also decreases levels of opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, or some kinds of cancer. Actually, having less HIV in your body helps your immune system to be on a mend and repel kinds of infections and cancers. Although there is still some HIV in the body, the immune system is still strong enough to fight off those illnesses. By reducing the amount of HIV in your body, HIV medicines also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. Moreover, ART not only saves individual lives but also actually lowers the collective viral load of communities, significantly reducing rate of HIV transmission.

ART is highly recommended for all people who are fighting against HIV, regardless of the period of time they have suffered from HIV and their health’s condition. If left untreated, HIV will attack the immune system and eventually progress to AIDS.

The main types of antiretroviral medications used for HIV treatment include:

  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) such as zidovudine (Retrovir), abacavir (Ziagen), and emtricitabine (Emtriva), which prevent one of the enzymes 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 2 small divisions: The first one is 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. The second one is fusion inhibitors, such as enfuvirtide (Fuzeon), which also blocks HIV’s ability to enter CD4 cells.

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

ARV reduce the viral load, the number of virus in your blood stream. People with undetectable viral loads stay healthier and longer. Moreover, they are less likely to transmit HIV infection to others.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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