Best HIV Medication & Recommended Treatments

Although there is no cure for HIV, drugs can manage the virus and prevent disease development.

Best HIV Medication & Recommended Treatments

People with HIV who are identified early and get and maintain antiretroviral medication (ART) may now keep the virus suppressed and live long and healthy lives, due to advancements in the effectiveness of HIV treatment.

As a result, over half of those living with HIV in the United States are 50 or older.

Many of them had had HIV for many years, while others were diagnosed later in life.

HIV (see also ‘What Is Perinatal Hiv And When Does It Occur?‘) will continue to weaken your immune system if you postpone therapy.

Delaying treatment (see also ‘HIV: Treatment Options And Managing Symptoms‘) increases your chances of transferring HIV to your partners, becoming unwell, and acquiring AIDS.

What Is HIV?

HIV is a sexually transmitted disease (STI). It can also be transferred by contact with contaminated blood, injectable drug usage, or needle sharing.

When a mother is pregnant, is in delivery, or is nursing, it can also be passed to the child.

Without treatment, it might take years for HIV to damage your immune system to the point where you get AIDS (see also ‘AIDS VS HIV: Key Differences To Understand‘).

HIV Symptoms

HIV reaches the clinical latency stage after about a month. This period might span anywhere from a few years to several decades.

Some people have no symptoms at all during this time, while others have minor or vague symptoms.

A nonspecific symptom is one that does not relate to a specific disease or condition.

Among the HIV symptoms (see also ‘What Are the Early Signs Of HIV?‘) include tiredness, sore throat, weight loss, night sweats, headaches, fevers, skin rashes, and diarrhea.

HIV is still transferable throughout this stage, even if there are no symptoms, and can be transmitted to another person.

A person will not know they have HIV unless they get tested.

If someone exhibits these symptoms and suspects they have been exposed to HIV, they should be tested.

At this stage, HIV symptoms may come and go or progress fast. Treatment can significantly delay this development.

As the person reaches the chronic, or clinical latency, stage of HIV, the first symptoms normally fade within a few months. With therapy, this period can extend for many years, if not decades.

Chronic HIV can endure for decades with regular administration of this antiretroviral medication and, if begun early enough, will not progress to AIDS.

How Does HIV Treatment Work?

HIV drugs can help you reduce the concentration of HIV in your body, fight infections, and live a better life.

They can decrease your chances of spreading HIV, but if taken wrongly, you can still infect others. They are not an HIV cure (see also ‘Will There Ever Be A Cure For HIV?‘).

Your doctor will instruct you on how to take your drugs correctly. You must strictly adhere to the instructions and should not miss a single dosage.

If you do not take your medicine on time, you may acquire drug-resistant strains of HIV and your treatment may stop functioning.

Treating HIV With Medication

More than 24 antiretroviral medications have been licensed by the FDA to treat HIV infection.

Because they function in diverse ways, they are frequently divided into six categories.

Doctors advocate combining or “cocktailing” at least two of them. As previously stated, this is known as antiretroviral treatment, or ART.

The following are some of the most regularly used HIV drugs.

Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)

This treatment is one method of preventing HIV replication and controlling the infection.

NRTIs are one of six antiretroviral medication types used to treat HIV.

Antiretroviral medications prevent viruses from multiplying or reproducing. NRTIs cure HIV by inhibiting an enzyme required by HIV to replicate itself.

All of these NRTIs are available as oral pills.

NRTI treatment generally entails taking two NRTIs as well as one antiretroviral medicine from a different class.

A healthcare professional will choose therapy based on the findings of tests that provide essential information about a person’s individual condition.

If that individual has already used antiretroviral medications, their healthcare professional will consider this while deciding on treatment alternatives.

When HIV therapy begins, the drug must be given on a regular basis exactly as directed. This is the most significant technique to assist in the management of HIV patients.

Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)

Treatment with nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) is one method of preventing HIV replication and controlling the infection.

NRTIs are one of six antiretroviral medication types used to treat HIV.

Best HIV Medication & Recommended Treatments

Antiretroviral medications prevent viruses from multiplying or reproducing. NRTIs cure HIV by inhibiting an enzyme required by HIV to replicate itself. All of these NRTIs are available as oral pills.

NRTI treatment generally entails taking two NRTIs as well as one antiretroviral medicine from a different class.

A healthcare professional will choose therapy based on the findings of tests that provide essential information about a person’s individual condition.

If that individual has already used antiretroviral medications, their healthcare professional will consider this while deciding on treatment alternatives.

When HIV therapy begins, the drug must be given on a regular basis exactly as directed.

This is the most significant technique to assist in the management of HIV patients.

Integrase Inhibitors

HIV integrase, a protein required for viral replication, is the target of integrase inhibitors.

The host chromosome is where viral genomic DNA is inserted by the enzyme integrase.

The integrase enzyme attaches to the DNA of the host cell, processes a region of the viral DNA in preparation for integration, and then inserts this processed strand into the genome of the host cell.

Integrase inhibitors prevent viruses from integrating into human cells’ DNA.

Protease Inhibitors (PIs)

Drugs called protease inhibitors help HIV spread more slowly. They accomplish this by obstructing the “protease” enzyme, which HIV cells require to grow and mature. Protease inhibition stops the virus from replicating.

A class of antiretroviral treatment (ART) drugs are protease inhibitors.

These drugs lower a person’s blood’s HIV concentration. This aids in keeping the infection under control and preserving general health.

Drugs called protease inhibitors can reduce the spread of HIV. They function by obstructing the “protease” enzyme.

Entry Inhibitors

Entry inhibitors function by obstructing HIV from accessing the body’s healthy CD4 cells (T-cells).

The majority of the approved anti-HIV medications are only effective against HIV once it has infected a CD4 cell. They operate differently from these medications.

Entry blockers function by binding to HIV surface proteins or proteins on the surface of CD4 cells.

HIV’s outer coat proteins must interact with the proteins on CD4 cells’ surface in order for HIV to attach to those cells.

Entry blockers stop this from occurring. A few entrance inhibitors concentrate on HIV’s surface proteins gp120 or gp41.

Some entrance inhibitors specifically target the CD4 protein or the CD4 cell’s surface CCR5 or CXCR4 receptors.

HIV cannot attach to the surface of CD4 cells and enter the cells if entry inhibitors are successful in obstructing these proteins.

Because entry inhibitors belong to a separate family of medications than PIs, NRTIs, and NNRTIs, they are likely to be beneficial for HIV-positive persons who have developed resistance to those treatments.

For HIV-positive persons who have tried and failed a number of the anti-HIV drugs that are currently licensed, this is wonderful news.

Boosters

Drugs called “boosters” are used to increase the effectiveness of protease inhibitors.

An antiretroviral is broken down more slowly by the liver when a tiny dosage of a booster medicine is also taken.

As a result, the primary medication remains in the body longer or at greater levels.

The recommended dosage of the principal medication would be useless without the boosting agent.

Side Effects Of HIV Medication

Antiretroviral therapies can have negative effects in certain persons, just like other medications do.

Modern medications do, however, often have fewer and milder side effects than previous medications.

Dry mouth, exhaustion, diarrhea, headaches, vomiting, skin rash, discomfort, disorientation, and trouble sleeping are a few of these possible side effects.

After the patient begins therapy, certain side effects may last for a few days or weeks. Others could get going later or go longer.

A patient can speak with their healthcare practitioner if they have serious side effects that lead them to think about terminating therapy.

Best HIV Medication & Recommended Treatments

Drug resistance can result by stopping treatment or missing doses, which restricts a person’s options for treatment.

Some people find that taking the drug two hours before night helps to lessen some negative effects.

Some folks might want to take it first thing in the morning to avoid sleep disruptions.

A person receiving antiretroviral medicine should be informed that their medication may interact with other prescription pharmaceuticals, herbal supplements, and illicit substances.

Despite these issues, antiretroviral medication has been shown to be long-term safe and to dramatically extend life expectancy for many HIV-positive individuals.

Treating HIV With Herbal Medicine

Use caution when taking herbal drugs. There isn’t enough proof to back up the usage of these medications to treat HIV symptoms.

A brief course of certain herbs, however, may enhance immunity in HIV-positive individuals. According to research, milk thistle is one such instance.

The plant milk thistle is frequently used by people to enhance liver function, and it little interacts with antivirals. However, keep in mind that some herbs could interfere with standard HIV medicines.

Loss of appetite is typical in HIV-positive individuals. Additionally, certain antiviral drugs might cause gastrointestinal problems and make it more difficult to take prescriptions as prescribed.

Cannabis can aid with hunger stimulation, nausea management, and pain relief. However, just a few states have legalized medicinal marijuana.

Furthermore, smoking marijuana has many of the same health dangers as smoking other drugs. More details may be available from a healthcare professional.

There isn’t much data to imply that contemporary HIV treatment drugs and medicinal marijuana will interact.

However, before taking marijuana to alleviate their symptoms, persons with HIV should speak with their doctor.

The medical professional will keep an eye out for any potential medication interactions or breathing issues.

Treating HIV With Body Therapies

Some people may find relief from discomfort through yoga and massage treatment.

According to research, yoga can also help people feel healthier overall and less anxious and depressed.

Even CD4 cells, which are immune cells that HIV targets, have been observed to increase in quantities.

With nausea and other side effects of therapy, acupuncture may be helpful.

The ancient Chinese medicinal technique of acupuncture involves inserting firm, thin needles into the body’s numerous pressure points. This may cause the body to produce compounds that might lessen pain.

Anxiety can also be lessened by relaxation techniques like meditation. They could make it easier to handle the strain of a long-term condition like HIV.

Living With HIV

When you are diagnosed with HIV, it is very important that you look after yourself.

This includes having regular, nutritious meals and getting enough sleep.

You will likely struggle with dark feelings and thoughts after being diagnosed but have comfort in the fact that they will pass in time. 

Be Mindful Of Drugs And Alcohol

For many individuals, drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs on occasion is a pleasurable aspect of life.

However, avoid using alcohol and drugs to cope with tough emotions.

They may provide temporary respite, but in the long run, they are likely to make your feelings more difficult to deal with.

Heavy drinking and drug use may also make it difficult to remember to take your anti-HIV medicine.

If you are concerned about your alcohol or drug usage, speak with your doctor; there is help available.

Ensure You Get Enough Sleep

Sleeping difficulties are a widespread issue. This might involve difficulty falling asleep, difficulty remaining asleep, difficulty waking up, and sleeping excessively.

Sleep issues can have an impact on your mental health, and some mental health issues can modify the way you sleep. Some anti-HIV medications might potentially cause sleep issues.

Eat A Balanced Diet

It might be difficult to eat healthily when you’re upset, anxious, or concerned, but strive to consume a healthy, balanced meal.

If you find it difficult to purchase and cook, using ready meals and pre-prepared foods might be beneficial.

Sitting down to enjoy a meal, particularly with someone else, can help you cope with stress and enhance your overall well-being. 

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity might help you manage stress and sleep better. It can also assist with anxiety and moderate depression symptoms.

Best HIV Medication & Recommended Treatments

You don’t have to join a gym; instead, select an activity you love, such as strolling around a nearby park, gardening, or riding a bike.

Exercising with another person or in a group may make it more pleasurable and help you feel more connected to others.

Reach Out

You do not have to cope with your troubles alone. It is sometimes necessary to seek assistance. This is not an indication of immaturity.

In fact, admitting that you need support is a show of strength. Psychological therapy might be beneficial if you are having difficulty understanding or dealing with your ideas and feelings.

If your HIV clinic does not provide these services, they should be able to assist you find one.

Maintain Relationships

Feeling alone can make you depressed and worried, or it can exacerbate these feelings.

Maintain regular touch with those who are essential to you. Friends, relatives, or members of your religious or cultural community might be included.

You might also attempt connecting with new individuals in ways that are comfortable for you.

How HIV Affects You As You Get Older

Multiple chronic illnesses or disorders, the use of several drugs, changes in physical and cognitive capacities, and greater susceptibility to stresses are just a few of the health issues that people aging with HIV share with the general population aged 50 and older.

Additionally, even while improved HIV therapy has reduced the incidence of AIDS-defining diseases in individuals who are aging with HIV, several HIV-associated non-AIDS disorders, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease, commonly affect older people with HIV.

These disorders most likely have several interrelated causes, such as HIV-related chronic inflammation.

Even when patients are receiving ART, researchers are striving to understand what causes persistent inflammation.

Older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to receive an HIV diagnosis later in the course of the disease, delaying the advantages of HIV therapy and perhaps causing greater immune system damage.

After receiving an HIV diagnosis, this may result in worse prognoses and a shorter survival time.

Health care professionals may not always screen elderly patients for HIV infection, and elderly patients may mistake HIV symptoms for indicators of natural aging and fail to recognize HIV as a potential reason they should address with their physician. These factors can result in late diagnosis.

HIV And Mental Health

A person’s mental health may be impacted by the stress of dealing with a severe sickness or condition, such as HIV.

It is critical for persons with HIV to understand that their risk of having mood, anxiety, and cognitive issues is increased.

For instance, one of the most prevalent mental health issues that HIV-positive persons experience is depression.

It’s critical to keep in mind that mental illnesses are curable. Mentally ill people are capable of full recovery.

HIV-related stigma may be one of the causes of this. The term “stigma” is used to describe the unfavorable attitudes and ideas that some people hold regarding HIV.

One of the causes of some HIV-positive patients developing negative self-esteem as a result of their diagnosis is stigma.

It can be challenging for anybody to escape some of the negative notions and beliefs that are prevalent regarding HIV, even those who are HIV-positive.

The brain and the rest of the nervous system can be impacted by HIV and other associated illnesses.

This could alter a person’s thoughts and actions. A person’s mental health may also be impacted by the negative effects of various HIV drugs.

Some anti-HIV medications might also have an impact on your mental and emotional well-being.

If you have a history of mental health issues, let your HIV doctor know when you start talking about medicines.

In this manner, they can give you the appropriate anti-HIV medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Is HIV Usually Treated?

HIV is treated with antiretroviral medication because it can dramatically limit the spread of the illness.

Additionally, it can strengthen the immune system and significantly lower the risk of HIV transmission to others.

Taking many drugs every day is common with antiretroviral treatment. The term “HIV regimen” is frequently used to describe this therapy.

The first stage in your treatment plan is choosing your regimen. According to how they fight HIV, HIV drugs are categorized into seven different drug classes.

How Often Should You Take HIV Medication?

The successful operation of the treatment plan depends on careful adherence to the need to take medicine as directed each day.

Asking your doctor for advice on how to follow your treatment plan is a good idea. Using a special calendar or setting a daily phone reminder are a few of typical suggestions.

Drug resistance is more likely if a patient skips doses or only takes it rarely. As a result, the treatments won’t work as well and the problem can get worse.

Are There Health Risks With HIV Treatment?

Before starting treatment, it’s a good idea to talk over any possible health concerns associated with antiretroviral medication with your doctor.

A variety of adverse effects and drug interactions involving some HIV drugs are possible.

Mild adverse symptoms including headaches and lightheadedness are the majority of these side effects. They can, however, occasionally be more serious and even fatal.

Additionally, there is a chance that HIV treatments might mix with other drugs and supplements.

Tell your doctor right away if you’ve recently begun using any new medications or dietary supplements.

Summary

Even though being diagnosed with HIV can cause a lot of initial anxiety and stress, antiretroviral therapy supplies those with HIV medications that will treat it and provide patients with a long, healthy life. 

This does not take away the fact that having HIV can be quite isolating sometimes when you are experiencing stigma from those around you. Keep in mind that there are many support groups out there who will help you.

Joshua Damie
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