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Expanding HIV and AIDS Drug Options

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Today, HIV-positive people have many options for AIDS and HIV medication. These options include:

  • Anti-HIV medications that treat HIV infection
  • Drugs that treat side effects of the disease or HIV treatment
  • Drugs that treat opportunistic infections that result from a weakened immune system

Researchers are continuing to develop many new types of AIDS and HIV medications.

HIV Drugs

The FDA has approved more than 25 antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV infection. They can help in these ways:

  • Lower your viral load
  • Fight infections
  • 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
  • Suppress symptoms
  • 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.

The FDA has approved these NRTIs:

Brand NameGeneric NameAbbreviation
Combivirzidovudine + lamivudineAZT + 3TC
EmtrivaemtricitabineFTC
Epivirlamivudine3TC
EpzicomAbacavir + lamivudineABC + 3TC
HividzalcitabineddC
RetrovirzidovudineAZT or ZDV
Stribildtenofovir + emtricitabine + elvitegravirTDF + FTC + EVG  
Trizivirabacavir + zidovudine + lamivudineABC + AZT + 3TC
Truvadatenofovir DF + emtricitabineTDF + FTC
Videxdidanosine: buffered versionsddl
Videx ECdidanosine: delayed-release capsulesddl
Vireadtenofovir disoproxil fumarate (DF)TDF or Bis (POC) PMPA
Zeritstavudined4T
ZiagenabacavirABC
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