Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens the immune system by destroying the white blood cells that combat infection, increasing the risk of cancer and opportunistic infections. The most serious stage of HIV is stage 3, also known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Without any treatment, the average survival time of HIV is eight to 10 years, with a mortality rate of 90%. When a person is first infected, a prolonged period with no or minor flu-like symptoms may be experienced. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no cure for HIV, but many antiretroviral HIV drug class treatments are available to slow the progression, reduce transmission, and extend life for many years.
Post-exposure prophylaxis treatment within 72 hours after potential exposure to HIV can prevent infection. Often used in emergency situations, such as accidental needle sticks to medical professionals, sexual assault, and shared needles, treatment is effective in most exposure situations. The sooner the treatment is administered after exposure the more effective it is.
Protease enzymes, which are produced in the stomach, play an important role in our bodies, such as immune support, blood clotting, cell division, and protein recycling. Medications that block viral proteases are useful for treating HIV. Protease inhibitors, or PIs, bind to proteases the HIV virus uses to replicate itself. This reduces the viral load and slows HIV progression. Side effects can include insulin resistance, liver problems, and a notable change in how food tastes.
HIV attempts to take over healthy cells by copying itself with an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. NRTIs block this enzyme from helping the virus replicate and create new copies of itself. The inhibitors are often taken in combination with other drug therapies to maximize treatment and are adjusted as the disease progresses. Side effects can include a severe rash, fatty liver, and decreased bone density.
This regimen is long-term, and it helps sustain a low viral load and healthy CD4 count in people who are infected with more than one strain of the virus. Alongside other antiretroviral drugs, such as NRTIs, PIs, and FIs, HAART effectively combats various targets of the virus at several stages. This type of therapy diminishes the ability of the virus to make copies of itself and greatly reduces plasma virus levels thereby suppressing HIV progression. HAART helps to maintain the immune system and support its fight against the virus. It also plays a part in reducing transmission of the virus to another person.
NNRTIs bind to the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase enzymes and stop it from turning its own RNA into new DNA, thereby preventing replication of the virus. NNRTIs can reduce the viral load greatly, lessen the likelihood of experiencing resistance to medicines, and diminish the symptoms of the virus. This regimen treats both HIV infection and AIDS. Side effects can include bone-marrow suppression, vomiting, muscle and abdominal pain, and rash.
As their name suggests, fusion inhibitors (FIs) make bonding with healthy cells difficult. FIs block the spike-shaped HIV envelope from merging with a white blood cell's membrane, stopping the virus from entering the cell and infecting it. FIs delay the progression of HIV, which ultimately strengthens compromised immune systems to combat other infections. Side effects can include swelling of the lips, mouth, or face, trouble breathing, and hives.
Pain in people with HIV comes from many causes, including side effects from drug treatment, dietary deficiencies, and cancer, and it can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and treated. Over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can be used for minor aches, pains, and discomfort. Always consult with a doctor about which OTC medication is compatible with your treatments and pain, as these types of medications come with their own complications.
If pain worsens, over-the-counter drugs may become less effective. Opioids can help relieve moderate to severe pain. This class of drugs is prescribed by a doctor and closely monitored due to its highly addictive nature, so it is recommended to use them sparingly for pain.
Patches and creams are effective in relieving mild to moderate pain, but people with HIV should consult their doctors before using them, as they can interact with other medications. Physical therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation all teach ways to diminish pain by redirecting it through natural health care, improving well-being and boosting the immune system. Medical cannabis is also known to benefit individuals with HIV by alleviating the symptoms that hinder their overall quality of life, such as nausea, pain, depression, and weight loss.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.