In the early 1980s, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic began, patients rarely lived longer than a few years. But today, people infected with HIV have longer and healthier lives. The main reason is that there are many effective medicines to fight the infection.
Combining Drugs to Help Control the Virus
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but a variety of drugs can be used in combination to control the virus. Each of the classes of anti-HIV drugs blocks the virus in different ways. It’s best to combine at least three drugs from two different classes to avoid creating strains of HIV that are immune to single drugs. The classes of anti-HIV drugs include:
* Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). NNRTIs disable a protein needed by HIV to make copies of itself. Examples include efavirenz (Sustiva), etravirine (Intelence) and nevirapine (Viramune).
* Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs are faulty versions of building blocks that HIV needs to make copies of itself. Examples include Abacavir (Ziagen), and the combination drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir (Truvada), and lamivudine and zidovudine (Combivir).
* Protease inhibitors (PIs). PIs disable protease, another protein that HIV needs to make copies of itself. Examples include atazanavir (Reyataz), darunavir (Prezista), fosamprenavir (Lexiva) and ritonavir (Norvir).
* Entry or fusion inhibitors. These drugs block HIV’s entry into CD4 cells. Examples include enfuvirtide (Fuzeon) and maraviroc (Selzentry).
* Integrase inhibitors. Raltegravir (Isentress) works by disabling integrase, a protein that HIV uses to insert its genetic material into CD4 cells.
While these medicines help people with HIV infection still have the virus in their bodies, so even when they are taking medicines, they can transmit HIV to others through unprotected sex and needle sharing.
Options for AIDS and HIV Medication
Researchers are continuing to develop many new types of AIDS and HIV medications. Today, HIV-positive people have many options for AIDS and HIV medication, including:
* Anti-HIV medications that treat HIV infection
* Drugs that treat side effects of the disease or HIV treatment
* Drugs that treat opportunistic infections that result from a weakened immune system