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HIV/ AIDS - How Can it be Treated?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Ajay Kumar Pujala 90% (142 ratings)
FHM Fellowship In HIV Medicine, MD, MBBS
HIV Specialist, Hyderabad  •  20 years experience
HIV/ AIDS - How Can it be Treated?

Sadly, there is no known cure for HIV. However, it can be controlled through medication. HIV or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus attacks the body's immune system and over time leaves it vulnerable to a number of other diseases. In its most advanced stages, it can lead to AIDS. Hence, it is essential to control this virus in its early stages.

HIV treatment is known as Antiretroviral therapy or ART. This involves taking a series of HIV medicines on a daily basis. ART can help HIV patients live a longer, healthier life and can also reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

The first step towards getting treated for HIV is to get tested. This can be easily done at your nearest health center and the results will be kept confidential. With HIV prevention is better than cure and hence, if you have more than one sexual partner, you must insist on them getting tested as well.

As soon as you test positive for the virus, start the treatment. Do not wait till you start feeling sick. ART can be taken by anyone at any stage of the condition. If you are pregnant, breast feeding or have been diagnosed with early HIV infection, this is all the more important.

HIV medication works by preventing the HIV cells from multiplying and thus reduces the amount of HIV cells in the body. A low level of HIV cells gives the immune system a chance to recover and strengthen itself. A lowered HIV count also reduces chances of transferring the virus to another person.

ART involves following a regimen of a number of medicines. There are 25 HIV medicines that can be grouped under six drug classes depending on how they affect HIV cells. These include:

  1. Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  2. Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  3. Protease Inhibitors
  4. Fusion And Entry Inhibitors
  5. Pharmacokinetic Enhancers And
  6. Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitors

Usually, a person is prescribed 3 to 4 HIV medicines from a minimum of 2 drug classes. A number of factors go into deciding what form of HIV treatment is most suitable to a patient. This includes the person's individual needs, symptoms presented, potential drug interactions and possible side effects. Convenience of following the regimen and costs are also taken into account while prescribing a form of treatment to a HIV patient.

Once treatment is started, ART can be proven to be effective within 3-6 months by lowering the number of HIV cells in the body.

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