HIV/AIDS drugs and treatment methods have come a long way in the past 15 years. Earlier, HIV/AIDS drug treatment was inaccessible, expensive and experimental. However, today there are a wide range of individual and cocktail combinations available for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Although the drug treatments of HIV/AIDS do not offer a cure, they have converted a once fatal infection into a manageable chronic disease. Life is not only prolonged, but also remains symptom free. The HIV/AIDS drugs restrict the virus from multiplying, keep the numbers down and prevents further weakening of the immune system. The drugs give the body time to improve and restore immunity. There are minor drawbacks of the drug treatments for HIV/AIDS. Initial side effects are likely to occur and the drugs need to be taken every day for the rest of the life.
HIV/AIDS drugs are also known as antiretrovirals (ARVs), HIV antiviral drugs, anti-HIV or anti-AIDS drugs. Taking two or more HIV/AIDS drugs at a time is called a combination therapy. Taking a combination of three or more HIV/AIDS drugs is sometimes referred to as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Combinations of drugs are essential to avoid drug resistances, which happen when a person is only on one HIV/AIDS drug. Taking two or more HIV/AIDS drugs at the same time vastly reduces the rate at which resistance would develop, making treatment more effective in the long run.
There are five groups of HIV/AIDS drugs that work best. Each of these groups attacks the virus in a different way. Understanding the cycle of the virus tells us how the HIV/AIDS drugs work.
1) Virus attaches to the immune cell, viral and cell membrane fuse, and capsid (coat) opens. The HIV/AIDS drug treatment called fusion or entry inhibitors (FI) prevent HIV from binding to or entering the cells.
2) An enzyme called reverse transcriptase from the virus changes the viral RNA to DNA. The HIV/AIDS drug treatment called nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs and NNRTIs) interferes with and inhibits the action of reverse transcriptase, which the virus needs to make new copies of itself.
3) An enzyme called integrase fuses the viral DNA into the cell’s nucleus. The HIV/AIDS drug treatment called integrase inhibitors, interfere with the integrase enzyme, which HIV needs to insert its genetic material into human cells.
4) The cells make copies of viral particles.
5) An enzyme called protease helps new viral particles to mature. The HIV/AIDS drug treatment called protease inhibitors (PIs) inhibits the action of protease and restricts the maturity of the viral particles.
Most HIV/AIDS drugs have at least three names:
1) The research or chemical name.
2) The generic name.
3) The brand name given by the pharmaceutical company.
4) The abbreviation of the common name.
All drug treatment for HIV/AIDS are a combination of some of the five classes of HIV/AIDS drugs. There are over 20 HIV/AIDS drugs approved in the US and Europe (including combined formulations) and many more in the expanded access programmes and trials. Fusion/entry inhibitors and integrase inhibitors are usually available in resource-rich countries.
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