If you are diagnosed with HIV, then you need to start treatment as soon as possible to avoid replication and multiplication of the virus in your body and damaging the immune system. The good thing is that due to medical advancements and research, there are better HIV treatment options today than there were some years back.
When seeking medical help from your doctor, always share with them the history of your infection including all past health complications as well as alternative medications or therapies you have been using and all drugs and supplements you have been taking. Once the doctor prescribes the medication, always follow the instructions keenly and take the drugs correctly so you can slow down the replication of the virus and have the infection under control.
Antiretroviral therapy (ART)
This is the most effective HIV treatment option that involves taking antiretroviral drugs. There are quite many of these drugs, but all fall into six major categories each fighting the virus differently. All antiretroviral drugs work to improve how well the immune system works, control replication and multiplication of the virus, slow down and stop the symptoms, and prevent the spread of the virus to other people.
The main categories of ART drugs include;
- Nucleoside/ nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors-NRTIs (these work by forcing the HIV to use fake versions of building blocks hence preventing replication and multiplications)
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors– NNRTIs (these work by binding to a specific protein to prevent the virus from making copies
- Protease inhibitors-PIs (these work by blocking proteins needed by infected cells to create new HIV particles
- Fusion inhibitors– enfuvirtide, the first fusion inhibitor to be approved by FDA works by preventing the virus from getting into the healthy cells.
- CCR5 antagonist– these work by blocking the entry of HIV into healthy cells, works differently from how the fusion inhibitors work
- Integrase inhibitors– these drugs work to stop HIV from multiplying by blocking a major protein that allows the virus to put its DNA into healthy cells.
Monoclonal antibody– this is a modern type of antiretroviral therapy drug explicitly prescribed for adults living with HIV and whose HIV has developed resistance due to the use of multiple HIV medications. The drugs work by preventing HIV infected cells from spreading the virus and affecting uninfected cells. Others work by increasing the efficacy of drugs you are already using.
It has however been recommended that a combination of these drugs is the best way to have your HIV under control and preventing the virus from being resistant to a specific drug. A report by US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that any HIV patient starts with three drugs from at least two of the main groups depending on the specific medical conditions they are suffering or likely to experience and how well their immune system is working. The doctor may also include other medicines for other specific health problems related to HIV.
The sad thing about the ART drugs is that they come with various side effects; however, newer medications are manufactured in a way that they do not cause much of the side effects. Among the common ones reported in a research study include;
- Skin rashes
- Sleeping problems
- Digestive discomfort
- Memory loss
- Pain and numbness
See your doctor immediately for guidance in the event you experience any of the above side effects. Also, never stop or skip your doses as that would make the virus stronger and dangerous. Continuous tests will also be necessary to help your doctor ascertain how well the prescribed medicines are working and better plan your treatment. Among the ongoing tests, you will be subjected to include; viral load to determine how much of the virus is in your blood, CD4 count to assess the health status of your immune system, blood tests for such conditions as blood sugar, and anemia, urine test to determine the state of your kidneys, triglyceride tests and tests for STIs like syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and herpes.