There currently is no cure for HIV but there are regimens that can keep the virus at undetectable levels in your body. HIV specialists can vary somewhat in when you should start a regimen although the current Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines recommends that therapy should start regardless of a person's CD4 ("T-Cell") count. That basically means you should start therapy quickly in an effort to reduce the virus doing any damage to the body by progressing.
When you start your regimen, adhering to it (taking your medications on time, every time) is also very important to keeping your HIV in check. With HIV, if you don't take your regimen as directed not only can it progress and begin to do damage to your body, the HIV can also become resistant to your regimen. There are alternative regimens and salvage regimens today but there are only so many so adherence is key to not letting the virus progress and get out of your control.
HIV works like this:
The HIV lifecycle process is commonly broken up into the following steps:
Binding and Fusion:
This Reverse Transcription process can be blocked by two HIV drug categories: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs or Nukes) and Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs or Non-Nukes).
There are currently 12-different NRTIs approved for use by the FDA, many however have become "Not Recommended." The NRTIs which are currently considered “Recommended” are – Emtriva and Viread (in combination to form Truvada) and Epivir and Ziagen (in combination to form Epzicom). Descovy is a brand new entry in this category.
Five different NNRTIs are approved by the FDA. The “Alternative” designated drugs in this category are Sustiva and Edurant (when used in combination to form the single tablet regimen, Complera.)
As noted, the drugs in these two categories are also co-formulated with drugs from other HIV-fighting categories in single tablet regimens such as Genvoya, Atripla, Complera, Odefsey, Triumeq and Stribild or combination pill regimens like Truvada and Epzicom.
The drugs in this HIV drug category that are meant to stop this process are called Integrase Inhibitors and there are currently 3-approved by the FDA. Isentress, Vitekta and Tivicay are all “Recommended” in DHHS guidelines.
This viral assembly can be blocked with the HIV drug category called Protease Inhibitors. There are currently 11-drugs approved by the FDA in this category. Only Prezista is currently listed as “Recommended” in this category.
How Untreated HIV Progresses
If you have a lifestyle that is considered "At Risk" for contracting the HIV virus and are not currently HIV positive, please get tested! The sooner you know your status, the much better off you are and you can stop HIV before it progresses in your body.
It’s important to understand that if you are infected with HIV, you don’t have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). However, if you don’t get treatment, HIV will eventually overtake your immune system—and this will lead to your being diagnosed with AIDS. Here are the common stages of untreated HIV:
During this period of infection, large amounts of the virus are being produced. The virus uses CD4 cells to replicate and destroys them in the process. Because of this the CD4 count can fall rapidly. Eventually the immune response will begin to bring the level of virus back down to a level called a Viral Set Point, which is a relatively stable level of the virus. At this point, the CD4 count begins to increase, but it may not return to pre-infection levels.
While some people progress through this phase faster than others, it is important to remember that HIV is still able to be transmitted to others during this phase. Toward the middle and end of this stage, the viral load will begin to rise and the CD4 cell count will begin to drop. When this happens, their may be constitutional symptoms of HIV (fever, night sweats, weight loss and fatigue) as the virus levels increase.
Copyright 2016, Positive Health Publications, Inc.
This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!