Antiretroviral Drugs for HIV Treatment
HIV is a chronic disease caused by a retrovirus. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically CD4 T cells. As the disease progresses threatening infections occur. It spreads through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk of a person infected with HIV. Although there is no cure for HIV, medications can delay the progression of HIV. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of antiretroviral drugs too reduce the amount of HIV in the body. Antiretroviral medications prevent HIV from replicating. ART is recommended for everyone infected with HIV. ART can even reduce the risk of HIV transmission from person to person. Antiretroviral drug regimens for treating HIV are typically combinations of 3 or 4 medications.
HIV Life Cycle
Understanding the HIV life cycle is the key to understanding how HIV medications work. The first step is binding, in which the HIV retrovirus attaches to a CD4 T-cell or immune cell. Once attached, the retrovirus fuses with the immune cell and allows all of its contents, including genetic material such as RNA, to enter the cell. The immune cell carries an enzyme that converts the HIV RNA to HIV DNA by a process called reverse transcription. Integration occurs when the HIV DNA is combined with the immune cell’s DNA. This infected immune cell replicates and assembles an immature HIV virus along with proteins it requires for viral function. The immature virus buds off of the original CD4 T-cell and is now able to infect another healthy CD4 T-cell. Antiretroviral medications block different parts of the HIV life cycle.
Types of Antiretroviral Medications
Here is a brief description of the various types of antiretroviral drugs, examples of brand-name HIV drugs in each class, and the average wholesale cost for a 1 month supply of each HIV medication.