AIDS is caused by HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, which damages the body’s defense system. There are six classes of antiretroviral drugs for HIV, each of which acts on a different step in HIV’s replication cycle. Most of them cause many systemic and topical side effects.

Some most common side effects and some methods include:

Appetite loss

Caused by Abacavir (Ziagen)

You should eat several small meals a day rather than three big ones. It is advisable to drink nutritional supplements or smoothies to make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals, for example taking an appetite stimulant, taking fruit juice instead of clear water.

Changes in the distribution of body fat (lipodystrophy)

Caused by a conjunction of drugs from the NRTI and protease inhibitor classes

It is important to exercise to lose weight in areas where you’ve gained fat, such as in the stomach. Moreover, you should get injections of polylactic acid (New Fill®, Sculptra®) in your face if you’ve lost weight there. Also, you could have liposuction to remove fat in other areas where it has collected. Ask your doctor about trying a drug called tesamorelin (Egrifta®), which reduces excess belly fat in people who take HIV medicine.


Caused by protease inhibitors and other medicines.

You should eat fewer greasy, fatty, spicy, and dairy foods and eat less insoluble fiber (such as raw vegetables, whole grain cereal, nuts). Besides, take over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicines such as loperamide (Imodium®) or diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil®).


Caused by many different drugs

It is essential to eat healthy foods to give you more energy and avoid drinking alcohol and smoking. Besides, you should exercise as often as you can.

High cholesterol and triglycerides (lipids) in the blood

Caused by protease inhibitors and other medicines

You should stop smoking and exercise more. Also, it is important to reduce the amount of fat in your diet (discuss with a dietitian about the safest way to do this) by eating fish and other foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. It is advisable to have blood tests at your doctor’s office to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Take statins or other lipid-lowering medicines if you need them.

Mood changes, depression, anxiety

Caused by efavirenz (Sustiva®)

You should change the timing of your medicine dose. Also, try to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs and take therapy or antidepressant medicines.

Nausea and vomiting

Almost all of medicines cause this side effects.

You should eat smaller portions several times during the day, rather than three big meals, and eat bland foods like plain rice and crackers. Besides, avoid fatty, spicy foods. Serve your meals cold, instead of hot. It is important to take anti-emetic medicines to control nausea.


Caused by nevirapine and other drugs

It is essential to moisturize your skin by applying lotion daily and avoiding hot showers and baths. Besides, use mild, non-irritating soaps and laundry detergents. It is indispensable to wear fabrics that breathe, like cotton. Ask your doctor if you can take an antihistamine medicine.

Trouble sleeping

Caused by efavirenz (Sustiva®) and other medicines

You should exercise regularly. Also, stick to a sleep schedule and avoid naps. It is advisable to make sure your bedroom is comfortable for sleep. Relax before bedtime with a warm bath or other calming activity and avoid caffeine and other stimulants within a few hours of bedtime. Besides, talk to your doctor about sleep medicines if the problem continues.

Other side effects from antiretroviral drugs include:

  • Abacavir hypersensitivity reaction (fever, nausea, vomiting, and other side effects from taking abacavir);
  • Bleeding;
  • Bone loss;
  • Heart disease;
  • High blood sugar and diabetes;
  • High lactic acid levels in the blood (lactic acidosis);
  • Kidney, liver, or pancreas damage;
  • Numbness, burning, or pain in the hands or feet caused by nerve problems.

AIDS is caused by HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, which damages the body’s defense system. People who are infected with HIV or anyone thought to be at risk of infection deserves compassion and support.

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

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