The purpose of antiretroviral treatment is to limit the reproduction of HIV and to allow the immune system to recover. If treatment is effective, the viral load in the blood falls progressively until it becomes undetectable: the virus remains present chronically, but it stops reproducing and the immune system starts working again, which limits opportunistic infections.
In fact, antiretroviral treatment should be started before the levels of CD4 are too low, in order to effectively prevent opportunistic infections and also to improve patient life expectancy.
A combination of medications to treat HIV
In general, combinations of three medications (triple therapy) or more are used, with the choice of drugs depending on the case specific to each patient. Tritherapy and multiple therapies have revolutionised treatment for HIV and the life expectancy of people infected has increased considerably over recent years thanks to antiretroviral therapy.
There are currently six classes of anti-HIV medications with different mechanisms of action:
- Nucleoside and nucleotide reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI)
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI)
- Protease inhibitors (PI)
- Entry inhibitors
- Integrase inhibitors
- CCR5 receptor antagonists
Last updated: 31/07/2018