Antiretroviral Drugs for AIDS Patients

Research is still going on for treatments and vaccines that will help an AIDS patient. There is no cure for AIDS. Drugs are used to prolong and give the patient a better quality of life.

A lot has been accomplished since the early 80s when AIDS was first discovered, but scientists do not see a cure coming soon. It takes years to find a drug that will work to either boost the immune system, or fight the destruction of the white blood cells. Clinical trials are still needed to find drugs that work and each individual will respond to these drugs in their own way.

Although there is no cure for AIDS, drugs have been developed to inhibit growth and reproduction of the HIV. Five classes of drugs are available.

Nucleoside Analogue Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

Nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitors were the first antiretroviral drugs to be developed. The slow down the multiplication of an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. This class includes the drugs, Retrovir, Epivir, Videx, Hivid, Zerit and Ziagen.

These drugs must be used in a combination with two other AIDS drugs that will treat both HIV and hepatitis B. There are serious side effects for each of these drugs. The symptoms will usually appear in the first few weeks of treatment and will disappear if the drugs are stopped. Some side effects include, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, fatigue, and trouble breathing.

Protease Inhibitors

Protease inhibitors are drugs that will stop the HIV reproduction when the disease is in a later stage. This drug causes the HIV particles in your body to become nonorganized and noninfectious. Drugs in this class are Norvir, Crixivan, Viracept, Reyataz, Aptivus Prezista and Agenerase.

Some patients who have not responded to other AIDS medications may respond with this class of drugs. Most are used with other AIDS medications. The most common side effects of protease inhibitors are stomach and digestive problems such as diarrhea and vomiting. A problem with the metabolism of sugar is a side effect of some of the newer protease inhibitors.


The third-class of AIDS drugs is NNRTIs or nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. This class of drugs will bind to the enzyme reverse transcriptase. Side effects for this class include sleeplessness, abnormal dreams, trouble in concentrating, and dizziness.

The fourth class works much like the third-class. They prevent the virus from putting its genetic material into the cells. This class will work faster and are effective for patients who are resistant to NNRTIs. There can be a fatal complication of liver damage by taking this class of drugs for AIDS treatment.

Fusion Inhibitors

Fusion inhibitors are drugs that are used on patients with a drug resistant form of HIV. Many people with AIDS are resistant to at least one drug and many will not respond to a three-drug combination.

These new classes of drugs called inhibitors are given by injection and suppress some resistant strains of the HIV virus. When you are being medicated with any of these classes of drugs, you will have your viral load tested every three to four months.

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