HIV treatment is the best shot at living a long healthy life. There is currently no cure for HIV but the treatment methods that are available can help you live a normal healthy life.
What Is Antiretroviral Therapy?
ART or antiretroviral therapy refers to the use of medicines aimed at treating the HIV infection. A person on ART needs to take the HIV medications every day. This is referred to as a HIV regimen. This therapy is recommended for anyone who is living with HIV. It is important to emphasize that ART will not cure HIV. However, the medicines will fight the virus and reduce it to levels that will allow you to live a longer healthier live. These medications will also help reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to uninfected people.
How Does HIV Treatment Work?
Before looking at how the HIV medicines work, it is important to understand how the HIV virus works. The HIV virus gets into the body and attacks and kills CD4 cells. These are the cells that make the immune system strong. When these cells are destroyed, the body is not in a position to fight infections and some cancers that link to the HIV virus.
The HIV treatment prevents the virus from multiplying and this reduces its amount in the body. When you have fewer viruses in the body, you give the body a chance to recover. Even if you still have the virus in the body, the immune system is strong enough to fight the infections and some cancers. With a low viral load, the medications also help in reducing the risk of HIV transmission. The main aim of ART is to bring the viral load to a low level such that it is not detectable by the viral load test. A person living with HIV but maintaining an undetectable viral load has a no or very low risk of transmitting the virus to a HIV negative individual through sexual contact.
When Is the Right Time To Start HIV Medicines?
Any person who has been diagnosed with HIV should start the ART as soon as possible. People with AIDS, pregnancy, co-infections, certain illnesses brought by the virus, and those at the early HIV infection stage, need to start ART immediately. The early stage of infection refers to a period of up to six months after initial infection.
What Medicines Are In The HIV Regimen?
There are many types of medicines that are in the HIV treatment or regimen. The medications are categorized into 7 classes of drugs depending on how they fight the virus. The initial regimen includes 3 medications from at least 2 different classes of HIV drugs. The selection of the medicines depends on factors such as potential drug interactions, and side effects. Since everyone has their own needs, there are different regimens to choose from. The seven classes of drugs are, Post Attachment Inhibitors, INSTIs, CCR5 Antagonists, Fusion Inhibitors, PIs, NRTIs, and NNRTIs.
What You Should Know About HIV Medicines
There are a number of things that health practitioners discuss with patients under HIV treatment about the medicines. Here are the main points of discussion:
Medicine Side Effects
In some cases, the HIV medicines cause side effects. Most of these side effects can be managed though in a few cases, they might be serious. Though this is the case, the benefits of these medicines significantly outweigh their side effects. It is also important to mention that newer, HIV treatment medicines have fewer side effects. Depending on the medicines being used, the side effects may vary. There are cases where people taking the same medications have different side effects. Some of the common side effects include occasional dizziness, and headaches. There are some that can be life threatening such as liver damage and swelling of the tongue or throat.
HIV medications can interact with other medicines in a HIV regimen. They can also interact with other medications, herbal products, nutritional supplements and vitamins. The interaction can either increase or reduce the effect of the medicine on the body. There are cases where drug interactions have been found to bring about more side effects.
The HIV virus mutates when the virus multiplies in the body. If there are variations of HIV virus that develop while a person is on HIV treatment, there might be drug resistant strains. This means that medicines that previously controlled the virus might be ineffective. Poor adherence to the medicine or HIV regimen can lead to drug resistant strains and ultimately treatment failure.
It is important to understand the available HIV treatment methods and to follow the regimen as prescribed. With proper treatment after HIV testing, you will live a longer healthier life and not put others at risk of infection especially through sexual contact. Improper treatment such as missing medicines will only lead to failure of treatment and drug resistance.