Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is a dangerous but treatable virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. A virus that gradually weakens your immune system, HIV can bring serious infections and cancers if left untreated.
Sadly, there is no cure for HIV. There are, however, medications that can help you control the infection in a better way. The current treatment aims to prevent HIV from multiplying, transforming into AIDS, and spreading it to sex partners.
What is the treatment for HIV?
HIV treatment involves medicines called antiretrovirals (ARV). Your doctor will usually combine 3 of these drugs to help control the infection. This combination therapy is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). It greatly reduces the complications related to HIV as well as minimizes the chances of changing HIV to a drug-resistant strain.
What are the medications used for treating HIV?
HIV cocktail-therapy includes 3 drugs from two of the following classes of antiretrovirals.
One class called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) block the HIV protein called reverse transcriptase. The virus needs this protein to integrate its genetic material into yours and make copies of itself. Examples include efavirenz (Sustiva) and rilpivirine (Edurant).
Another class called nucleoside, or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), are faulty building blocks HIV uses to copy itself. Examples include combination regimens like lamivudine-zidovudine (Combivir) and emtricitabine/tenofovir (Truvada). Your doctor will use two NRTIs with a third drug from any of the other listed classes.
Protease inhibitors (PIs) is a class that turns off an HIV protein called protease, also needed by HIV to produce copies of itself. An example is a drug named indinavir (Crixivan). Fusion inhibitors impede HIVs entry into your immune cells. An example is a drug named enfuvirtide (Fuzeon). Integrase inhibitors block a protein called integrase that HIV uses to integrate its genetic code into your immune cells.
You need to take these medicines every day as prescribed for the rest of your life unless your doctor says otherwise.
How to know which drug cocktail will work best for you?
Your care team at an HIV treatment center will choose the HIV drug cocktail that works best for you based on a variety of factors.
These factors include pill burden, the levels of virus in your body, the potential of one medicine to interact with the other, other health problems you might have, and potential side effects.
When should HIV treatment begin?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — the agency that sets and publishes health-related guidelines for Americans — recommends starting the therapy as soon as possible after diagnosis.
Is it necessary to get HIV treatment?
Yes, it is highly important to get treatment for HIV. You may have HIV but still not feel sick and may delay treatment. However, the longer you delay, the greater are your chances of developing AIDS. A lack of treatment also puts you at risk of developing illnesses that generally come with aging, termed as non-AIDS related ailments.
On the other hand, timely HIV treatment slows the virus from replicating itself — one of the 7 stages of the HIV life cycle. Timely treatment also offers other health benefits.
These benefits include preventing further damage to your immune cells, reducing your risk of HIV-related complications, minimizing your risk of developing AIDS, keeping non-AIDS related ailments such as heart diseases, kidney problems, and liver and brain disorders at bay, and lowering the chances of passing on HIV to others by reducing the levels of virus in your blood
Remember to follow your treatment plan exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
How to get HIV treatment?
Your health insurance should cover the HIV/AIDS treatment. If your insurance plan does not cover HIV treatment, then you need to purchase a plan. However, not everyone in the United States can afford to buy health insurance.
What if you do not have any health insurance? Can you still get HIV treatment?
Yes, you can find the care and treatment for HIV across the U.S., including Arkansas rendered by the Ryan White Program medical providers. The Ryan White Program is for those with HIV/AIDS who do not have health insurance or cannot afford the medical services.
How to know if your HIV treatment is working?
Your doctor will monitor the levels of virus (viral load) and immune cells in your blood to assess your response to HIV treatment.
Your HIV drug cocktail will be effective if it can lower your viral load to undetectable levels. This does not mean that your body no longer carries HIV. It just means that the viral levels in your blood are low enough to be detected on testing.
HIV targets the immune cells. A dropping immune cell count means that the treatment is not working well. A stable count, on the other hand, means the therapy is effective.
What is the biggest obstacle faced during HIV treatment?
Sticking to your treatment plan is the biggest hurdle. A busy schedule can make you forget to take pills every day as prescribed. Side effects from the HIV pills (such as nausea and vomiting) may also make you avoid the scheduled dose altogether.
Skipping your medicines, even once in a while, can cause the virus to multiply or mutate. Talk to your health care provider at the treatment center. There are medicines and other helpful tips to tackle the most common side effects.
For more information
You are not in this alone. If you want more information or are seeking an HIV treatment center in Arkansas, then please contact ARcare at (866) 550-4719 today!