HIV Medications Overview
The purpose of HIV medications is to interfere with the virus's ability to reproduce inside the body. No single drug is effective in controlling the HIV virus, and thus HIV medications are taken in combinations of three or more drugs. These combinations are known as HAART - Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
There are five groups of HIV medications. Each group or class stops the virus at a different point in its reproductive cycle. These are:
· Entry inhibitors
· Integrase inhibitors
· NRTIs (nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
· NNRTIs (non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
· PIs (protease inhibitors)
Important HIV Blood Tests
Here are the names and brief explanations of two types of blood tests taken to determine if and how much HIV medication is needed:
T-Cell Test or CD4: This test measures the strength of the immune system. T cells are a type of white blood cell. The higher the number of T cells, the stronger the immune system is. The HIV virus enters and infects T cells. Then the now HIV-infected T cells duplicate themselves, thus spreading the virus in the body. Without HIV medications, the T-cell count gradually decreases, weakening the immune system and thus increasing the risk of becoming ill.
Viral Load Test: This test indicates the amount of HIV circulating in the bloodstream.
The higher the viral load, the more HIV there is in the system. The more HIV in the system, the faster the T-cell count will drop. After beginning a protocol of HIV medications, the viral load test offers a good indication of how well the medicine is working.
Are you confused by the myriad of names of HIV medications? You are not alone! Indeed, HIV drugs typically have a few names. Here is the breakdown:
Each HIV medication has a generic name, a brand name, often an abbreviated name, and sometimes a combination name (where a medication is found in a combination with other drugs).
The generic name is the scientific name of a medication. The brand name is what the drug companies call a medication in order to patent it. This brand name is typically recognized by a trademark sign accompanying it. Abbreviated HIV medication names are simply easier to talk about and to remember. These abbreviations are often based on the drug's generic name or on the chemicals the drug is composed of - for example, AXT or 3TC. Finally, combination drugs contain several HIV medications together. Combination HIV medications offer a convenient way for someone to take HIV meds.
Important new HIV medications are on the rise. Among these are drugs that not only fight HIV after it has entered a T-cell, but that attack the virus before it even gains access to a T-cell. Furthermore, HIV medications today have fewer side effects and can be taken less frequently than ever before.
Research continues to find new HIV medications that interrupt the HIV virus and that ultimately improve the quality of life for all those suffering from HIV and AIDS.