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Expanding HIV and AIDS Drug Options

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AIDS and HIV Drugs for Opportunistic Infections and Other HIV-Related Problems

If severe side effects result from HIV drugs, you may need to stop using them. Or you may need to switch to others. Don't stop without first talking with your doctor.

If you develop an opportunistic infection, you may need to take extra medications. In some cases, doctors prescribe preventive drugs to keep an opportunistic infection from starting in the first place. And, some maintenance drugs must be taken for life to prevent them from returning.

Here are a few examples of common opportunistic infections or side effects caused by HIV medications. The table also shows medications commonly used to treat them.

Infection or
Side Effect


Common Medications Used


Low red-blood-cell count

Procrit or Epogen (erythropoietin)

Cryptococcal meningitis

Brain infection caused by a fungus


Protozoan infection

Nitaxoanide (Alinia)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Virus that can cause eye infections

Hepatitis C

Viral infection that can cause liver damage

A combination of ribavirin (a pill) and pegalyated interferon (a once-a-week injection)

Kaposi's sarcoma

A cancer that causes skin lesions

Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC)

Bacterial infection

Peripheral neuropathy

Nerve damage

Pneumocystis carinii

Pneumonia caused by a fungal infection

Preventive treatment: Bactrim or Septra (TMP-SMZ), pentamidine, or mepron

Other AIDS and HIV Drugs in Development

Researchers are continuing to work hard to develop new types of AIDS and HIV drugs.

New ones in development include:

  • Maturation inhibitors that help prevent the development of HIV's internal structures
  • Assembly and budding inhibitors that interfere with the final stage of the HIV life cycle
  • Zinc finger inhibitors that break apart structures holding HIV's inner core together
  • Antisense drugs that lock onto the virus to prevent it from functioning
  • Cellular metabolism modulators that interfere with HIV's ability to make copies of itself (called replication)

Immune therapies help the body defend against HIV. New ones in development include:

  • Gene therapies that block HIV replication by producing immune cells that are genetically resistant to HIV infection
  • A variety of immune modulators such as cytokines that increase the immune system's response to HIV

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 16, 2014
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