This article provides a list of HIV medications that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have currently approved. We also give information about choosing an appropriate HIV regimen.
How HIV medications work
HIV medications primarily work by stopping the virus from replicating.
The virus attacks the immune system by invading and killing the white blood cells that play an important role in this system.
After invading a white blood cell, the virus uses it to replicate itself. This allows HIV to spread. The immune system begins to weaken as this happens, leaving the person more susceptible to infection.
A class of drugs called antiretroviral medications, or antiretrovirals, can stop the virus from replicating. This helps protect the immune system, allowing people with HIV to lead long, productive lives.
Types of HIV medication
The HIV life cycle refers to the replication and spread of the virus throughout the body. There are seven classes of antiretrovirals, each of which target HIV at a different stage of its life cycle.
A central aim of this medication is to reduce a person’s viral load, or the amount of the virus in the blood, to an undetectable level.
An undetectable viral load indicates that a person’s HIV medications are working effectively to keep the virus under control.
The following antiretroviral medications currently have approval by the FDA.
Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
NNRTIs stop HIV from replicating. They do this by binding to and altering an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which HIV uses to replicate.
The list of NNRTIs includes:
Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
These drugs work in a similar way as the NNRTIs above: by preventing HIV from replicating. This reduces the viral load of HIV within a person’s body.
The list of NRTIs includes:
The healthcare provider will work with a person to choose an HIV regimen that best meets their needs.
As part of this process, the healthcare provider may recommend drug-resistance testing. This procedure identifies medications that may not be effective in treating a person’s HIV.
A healthcare provider may also take the following into account when recommending an HIV regimen:
- whether the person is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant
- whether the person has other medical conditions, such as heart disease
- possible side effects of HIV medications
- potential drug interactions with other medications and supplements
- any issues that may make it difficult to take HIV medications consistently, such as a busy schedule, a lack of health insurance, or alcohol and drug use
- the cost of the HIV medications
Antiretroviral medications cannot cure HIV, but they can help protect a person’s immune system.
When choosing an appropriate regimen, work closely with a healthcare provider to identify the most appropriate combination of HIV medications.
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