Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus Treatment

Medications may slow the effects of HIV on the body, but there is no cure for HIV infection or AIDS. Antiretroviral drugs are medications for the treatment of infection by retroviruses, primarily HIV. There are different classes of antiretroviral drugs, each affecting a different stage of the HIV life cycle.

When several antiretroviral drugs, typically three or four, are taken in combination, the approach is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART.

Treatment for AIDS may include:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus Fusion Inhibitors

Fusion inhibitors prevent the HIV virus from attaching to a cell. If the virus is unable to attach, the virus cannot enter and infect the cell.

Fusion inhibitors are used in combination with other antiretroviral medications for the treatment of HIV to prevent the virus from spreading in the body and to reduce the amount of virus in the bloodstream.

Fusion inhibitors include:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus Integrase Inhibitors

Integrase inhibitors work by inhibiting the enzyme integrase, which is responsible for integration of viral DNA into the DNA of the infected cell.

Integrase inhibitors are used in combination with other antiretroviral medications for the treatment of HIV to prevent the virus from spreading in the body and to reduce the amount of virus in the bloodstream.

In 2007, the FDA approved raltegravir (Isentress) for use in individuals whose infection has proven resistant to other HAART drugs.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus NNRTI Drugs

Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI drugs) interfere with the production of new viruses. This is achieved by inhibiting the enzyme, reverse transcriptase. This enzyme allows the virus to copy its own RNA to produce viral DNA, which is then used to produce the virus. Without this enzyme, the virus cannot reproduce. In order to increase the effectiveness, these medications are used in combination with one or more of the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.

Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors are used in combination with other antiretroviral medications for the treatment of HIV to prevent the virus from spreading in the body and to reduce the amount of virus in the bloodstream.

Examples include:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus NRTI Drugs

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI drugs) interfere with the production of new viruses. This is achieved by inhibiting the enzyme, reverse transcriptase. This enzyme allows the virus to copy its own RNA to produce viral DNA, which is then used to produce the virus. Without this enzyme, the virus cannot reproduce. In order to increase the effectiveness, these drugs are used in combination with one or more of the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors are used in combination with other antiretroviral medications for the treatment of HIV to prevent the virus from spreading in the body and to reduce the amount of virus in the bloodstream.

Examples include:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus Protease Inhibitors

Protease inhibitors interfere with the production of new viruses. This is achieved by inhibiting the enzyme, protease, which is involved in the production of new viruses. Without this enzyme, the virus cannot reproduce.

Protease inhibitors include:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of HIV infection.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Am I contagious?
    • For how long?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for complications?
  • How do I avoid passing the infection to others?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat HIV infection:

Continue to Human Immunodeficiency Virus Home Care

Last Updated: Dec 15, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Human Immunodeficiency Virus References
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  4. McArthur JC, Brew BJ, Nath A. Neurological complications of HIV infection. Lancet Neurol. 2005 Sep;4(9):543-55. [16109361]
  5. Mylonakis E, Paliou M, Lally M, et al: Laboratory testing for infection with the human immunodeficiency virus: established and novel approaches. Am J Med 2000 Nov; 109(7): 568-76. [11063959]
  6. Paul SM, Sensakovic J, Podhurst LS, Morgan DH, Triano-Davis W. Managing HIV/AIDS patients. N J Med. 1998 May;95(5):55-60. [16013158]
  7. Treatment guidelines from the Medical Letter: Drugs for HIV Infection. Treat Guidel Med Lett 2004 Jan; 2(17): 1-8. [15529108]
  8. Varghese GK, Crane LR: Evaluation and treatment of HIV-related illnesses in the emergency department. Ann Emerg Med 1994. Sep. (3): 503-11. [8080146]
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