The FDA has approved more than 25 antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV infection. They can help in these ways:
Lower your viral load
Improve your quality of life
Even when these HIV medications are effective, however, you can still transmit HIV to others. They are not a cure for HIV.
The HIV drug Truvada, however, has been approved for use in those at high risk as a way to prevent HIV infection. It's to be
used in conjunction with safe sex practices.
A group of HIV specialists has developed guidelines for the use of these HIV medications. The current goals are to:
Control the growth of the virus
Improve overall immune system function and status
Produce as few side effects as possible
To do this, doctors recommend that you take a combination of HIV drugs from at least two of the main classes. This combination is called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). It helps combat new resistant strains of the virus that emerge as HIV makes copies of itself. HAART also decreases the rate of opportunistic infections.
If you are HIV-positive, you should begin HAART:
If you have symptoms of HIV
If your CD4 cell count falls below 350-500 or if you are newly infected, whether or not you have symptoms. CD4 cells -- also called T cells -- are a type of immune system cell.
These are five classes of HIV drugs.
1. Reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors help block an important step in the HIV life cycle. There are two types of RT inhibitors.
Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) stall reproduction of HIV. They force the virus to use faulty versions of building blocks.