Antiretroviral drugs are used to treat HIV. Treatment for HIV has improved immensely since the disease was first diagnosed in the 1980s. None of the drugs used to treat HIV are a cure, however, they can help delay and prevent AIDS. Symptoms can be delayed or reduced for many years. Because the virus replicates, HIV builds resistance to treatment and a combination of various drugs is most effective. This combination is known as highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). Unfortunately, many of the drugs have serious side effects.
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General: Although current antiretroviral drugs cannot cure HIV/AIDS, they may suppress the virus, even to undetectable levels. The guidelines for antiretroviral treatment are the same for adolescents and adults.
Patients who were taking antiretroviral medication before becoming pregnant should talk to their healthcare providers to determine the safest and most effective treatment options. In general, efavirenz (Sustiva®), stavudine (Zerit®), hydroxyurea (Droxia® or Hydrea®), and the oral liquid formulation of amprenavir (Agenerase®) should not be taken during pregnancy because they may cause harm to the fetus.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART): HIV patients typically receive a combination of antiretroviral drugs because a single patient may have several different strains (types) of the virus circulating in the blood. The different strains of the virus may respond differently to specific types of drugs. Therefore, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), which is a combination of drugs from at least two different drug classes, is recommended. There are five major classes of antiretrovirals: fusion inhibitors, nucleoside/neucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs/NtRTIs), non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), protease inhibitors, and integrase inhibitors. Each drug class disrupts different stages of HIV's life cycle.
Synergistic enhancers: Another group of medications, called synergistic enhancers, may also be used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV. These medications do not act as antiretrovirals when taken alone, but they have been shown to improve the antiretrovirals effects of other drugs, including ritonavir. Very small doses of synergistic enhancers may also be used to reduce the liver metabolism of other antiretroviral drugs.
You should read product labels, and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider. Natural Standard information does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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