NEW HIV TREATMENT AND COST.
Treatment options for HIV
Treatment should begin as soon as possible after a diagnosis of HIV, regardless of viral load.
The main treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy, a combination of daily medications that stop the virus from reproducing. This helps protect CD4 cells, keeping the immune system strong enough to take measures against disease.
Antiretroviral therapy helps keep HIV from progressing to AIDS. It also helps reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
When treatment is effective, the viral load will be “undetectable.” The person still has HIV, but the virus is not visible in test results.
However, the virus is still in the body. And if that person stops taking antiretroviral therapy, the viral load will increase again, and the HIV can again start attacking CD4 cells.
Many antiretroviral therapy medications are approved to treat HIV. They work to prevent HIV from reproducing and destroying CD4 cells, which help the immune system generate a response to infection.
This helps reduce the risk of developing complications related to HIV, as well as transmitting the virus to others.
These antiretroviral medications are grouped into seven classes:
- nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
- non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
- protease inhibitors
- fusion inhibitors
- CCR5 antagonists, also known as entry inhibitors
- integrase strand transfer inhibitors
- attachment inhibitors
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) generally recommends a starting regimen of three HIV medications from at least two of these drug classes.
This combination helps prevent HIV from forming resistance to medications. (Resistance means the drug no longer works to treat the virus.)
Many of the antiretroviral medications are combined with others so that a person with HIV typically takes only one or two pills a day.
A healthcare provider will help a person with HIV choose a regimen based on their overall health and personal circumstances.
These medications must be taken every day, exactly as prescribed. If they’re not taken appropriately, viral resistance can develop, and a new regimen may be needed.
Blood testing will help determine if the regimen is working to keep the viral load down and the CD4 count up. If an antiretroviral therapy regimen isn’t working, the person’s healthcare provider will switch them to a different regimen that’s more effective.
Side effects and costs
Side effects of antiretroviral therapy vary and may include nausea, headache, and dizziness. These symptoms are often temporary and disappear with time.
Serious side effects can include swelling of the mouth and tongue and liver or kidney damage. If side effects are severe, the medications can be adjusted.
Costs for antiretroviral therapy vary according to geographic location and type of insurance coverage. Some pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs to help lower the cost.
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