Antiretroviral Drugs

Antiretroviral drugs

Have you recently heard about Antiretroviral Drugs and want to know how can they be used in HIV Treatment? This guide about Antiretroviral Drugs will give you a basic understanding about ART and its use in treating HIV.

What are Antiretroviral Drugs

Antiretroviral drugs are the combination of medicines for HIV treatment. Some antiretroviral drugs are combined into one pill and used as a “fixed dose combination” for HIV treatment.These drugs do not kill HIV virus but if you start taking Antiretroviral therapy, it effectively prevents the growth of the HIV virus. It means it controls virus growth, so you can live a healthy and longer life with minimum risk of transmission of HIV virus to others. Antiretroviral drugs allow the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage.WHO (World Health Organization) recommend ART as soon as possible after detection of HIV virus in your blood stream. Research states, after taking this vital medicines, huge decrease have been noticed in the rate of deaths and infections among HIV positives.

How Antiretroviral Drugs works?

ART cannot kill HIV virus and no medicine have been invented (yet) to kill HIV virus. Hence, your HIV infection cannot be cured by any medicine. Worldwide, several research organizations searching for the cure of the complete elimination of HIV virus so you can hope for good for the future. Till today, ART is the best medicine to fight HIV. It significantly slows down the growth of the amount of HIV Virus in your blood stream. It stops the virus from reproducing itself.  People with a reduced amount of HIV virus in their blood stream are likely to live longer and having reduced chance of infecting others. The virus will be there in your bloodstream but it will become nearly undetectable viral load in HIV test. Viral load is the amount of virus in your bloodstream.

When should we start Antiretroviral Drugs?

Doctors recommend ART as soon as they detect HIV in your bloodstream. The sooner you start your medication, the better. There are different types of combination of drugs in ART, you need to choose it carefully with a thorough discussion with your consultant. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends these combinations which are very effective.

  1. TDF (tenofovir)
  2. 3TC (lamivudine) or FTC (emtricitabine)
  3. EFV (efavirenz).5

It is very important to discuss at least below issues, before selecting any combination.

  • Side Effect – There are different side effects for different medicines in ART. You need to choose it carefully, keeping in mind, which side effect you can tolerate and cannot tolerate. Common known side effect ranges from diarrhea, upset stomach to weakened bones, cholesterol problem.
  • Eating pattern – There are few drugs you need to take with your food. So if your eating pattern is irregular. You should avoid those drugs.
  • Woman Pregnancy – If you are a woman and planning to get pregnant while taking ART, there are few ART pills, which is not good for a woman who are pregnant and breastfeeding. You should inform your doctor about it.
  • Your existing disease(s) – If you are taking any medicine for your existing disease(s), you should inform your doctor. Some medicines of ART likely to cause problems with other medicines.
  • You may ‘miss’ a dose – You should inform your doctor if you may have a problem in remembering your dose and likely to miss a dose. Some combinations are better for people, who may miss their dose.
  • One Pill Solution  –  There are new drugs in ART like Atripla, Stribild or Complera, which you have to take just one pill a day once. You can start these drug if you want.
  • Drug Resistance Test – You may take a drug resistance test which identifies the most effective drug for you and if a drug is not effective et all.
  • Cost – There are several options of cheaper drugs as well as expensive drugs available in ART. Discuss it with your doctor, if you have any preference.

What’s Next?

Once you start your medication, its very important to take it regularly. It is very risky to miss even a single dose. If any medicine causing you any problem, discuss it with your doctor. There are several options available for this medicine. As of now, these medications are for life. So you must continue your medication in any case. There will be instances like you lose your medical insurance cover or you are changing your doctor, you must not miss even a single dose until you have your replacement drug. Sometimes you feel perfectly well and start to believe, you are cured. You may think, now is the time you stop taking pills. You must not stop taking pills in any case. If you are feeling perfectly well, this means your medicines are working perfectly well but HIV is still in your bloodstream. If you stop taking pills, it will multiply itself and you will be sick again.