AIDS Home > Treatment for HIV
HIV is typically treated with medications. These medications can slow the spread of the virus in the body and delay the start of opportunistic infections. Combinations of different drugs can also be helpful. While taking multiple drugs can increase the effectiveness of treatment for HIV, many people experience some side effects with the drugs.
When AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) first surfaced in the United States, there were no medicines to combat the underlying immune deficiency, and few treatments existed for the opportunistic diseases that resulted. Researchers, however, have now developed treatment for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection and its associated infections and cancers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of medications to treat HIV infections.
Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs, NNRTIs, and NtRTIs)
The first group of HIV medications, called nucleoside reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors, interrupts an early stage of the virus making copies of itself. These medications may slow the spread of HIV in the body and delay the start of opportunistic infections. This class of medications, called nucleoside analogs, includes:
- AZT (azidothymidine, zidovudine, Retrovir®)
- ddC (zalcitabine, Hivid®)
- ddI (dideoxyinosine, didanosine, Videx®)
- d4T (stavudine, Zerit®)
- 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir®)
- Abacavir (Ziagen®)
- Emtricitabine (Emtriva®)
- Abacavir/lamivudine (Epzicom®)
- Abacavir/lamivudine/zidovudine (Trizivir®)
- Lamivudine/zidovudine (Combivir®).
Healthcare providers can also prescribe non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), such as:
- Delavridine (Rescriptor®)
- Nevirapine (Viramune®)
- Efravirenz (Sustiva®) (in combination with other antiretroviral medications)
- Etravirine (Intelence®) (in combination with other antiretroviral medications)
- Rilpivirine (Edurant®).
Nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NtRTIs) are other similar drugs. At this time, there is only one NtRTI drug on the market: tenofovir (Viread®). It works exactly the same as NRTIs. In fact, the names for the two classes of AIDS drugs are so similar that these medications are often confused for each other. The only real difference is in the chemical structures of these HIV medications.