HIV Treatment
Alexander McMeeking, MD
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Alexander McMeeking MD FACP

The most comprehensive HIV care and treatment for better living.

Antiretroviral meds for HIV

Antiretroviral drug therapy is one of the most commonly used methods doctors use to try and control an HIV infection. There are different types of antiretroviral meds for HIV, and the cocktail of medications depends on what the patient expects and requires them to do. Some patients ultimately need to take several different antiretroviral meds for HIV at the same time.   This is a cycle that’s known as highly active retroviral therapy, or HAART. Patients take these pills in the hope that it will keep their immune systems functioning properly, which helps to keep opportunistic infections at bay. Infections in patients suffering from HIV can lead to death, so preventing infection is an important part of antiretroviral drug therapy.

There are several different classifications of antiretroviral medication. Treatment can combine all of them in a procedure that aims to create “roadblocks” that prevent the spread of HIV cells and keep any replications as low as possible. The various classifications of antiretroviral meds include:

  • Early inhibitors. These drugs block targets so HIV cells can’t replicate.
  • Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI/NtRTI). These block reverse transcription on the nucleoside and nucleotide of the cell.
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI). These medications also block reverse transcription.
  • Integrase inhibitors (integrase nuclear strand transfer inhibitors/INSTIs). These inhibitors stop the integrase enzyme, which means the viral DNA can’t combine with the actual DNA.
  • Protease inhibitors. This medication blocks enzymes from producing mature copies of the virus.

Depending on what antiretroviral meds are already in play, these antiretroviral drug therapy medications are traditionally divided up into different combinations.  It will include two NRTIs with one NNRTI, PI, or INSTI.  When combined, antiretroviral meds for HIV attempts to suppress the mutation and replication of viral cells. While it’s not a cure, it is a way for patients to manage the condition and allow them to live their lives relatively normally. Combination antiretroviral drug therapy involves taking more than one pill. There is also an option of fixed dose combination pills, which combines antiretroviral medication treatment all in one pill.

Ultimately, treating HIV with antiretroviral drugs is a way to effectively manage the condition by suppressing replication and preventing infections. Once antiretroviral drug therapy is started, doctors recommend staying on it. Going off the medication means your body will stop suppressing infections and could contribute to the spread of HIV.