When it was first diagnosed, HIV/AIDS was seen by many as a death sentence. For years, treatment options were limited or prohibitively expensive. Research studies on treatments were limited; individuals relied on a series of “trial and error” treatments until they found what worked best for them. While cost issues are still at play, we have reached a period of time wherein treating HIV/AIDS is not as daunting as it once was.
Antiretroviral therapy is used to treat HIV infections. This controls the virus and enables a person to live a long, relatively healthy life. It also helps reduce the likelihood that they can pass HIV onto others. By preventing the virus from multiplying in a person’s body, these drugs, when taken in the correct combination, gives the immune system a greater chance of fighting off infection. There are six drug classes that are used to treat HIV: non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, CCR5 antagonists, and integrase strand transfer inhibitors. Within these categories are more than 25 different drugs; finding the right combination of these various drugs allows one to contain the virus and prolong one’s life. This is done by identifying any other conditions a person has, weighing the side effects of the various drugs, considering interactions between drugs, and ensuring the regimen is convenient, affordable, and feasible for the patient. Thankfully, ample research has been done on the various combinations of drugs that tend to work the best, giving patients and their physicians a starting point when determining the best course of treatment for any given individual.