Anti-HIV (also called antiretroviral) medications are used to control the reproduction of the virus and to slow or halt the progression of HIV-related disease. When used in combinations, these medications are termed Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). HAART combines three or more anti-HIV medications in a daily regimen, sometimes referred to as a "cocktail". Anti-HIV medications do not cure HIV infection and individuals taking these medications can still transmit HIV to others. Anti-HIV medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fall into four classes:
1. Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs), such as nevirappine (Viramune) and efavirenz (Sustiva), bind to and block the action of reverse transcriptase, a protein that HIV needs to reproduce.
2. Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs), such as zidovudine (Retrovir), tenofovir DF (Viread), and stavudine (Zerit), are faulty versions of building blocks that HIV needs to make more copies of itself. When HIV uses an NRTI instead of a normal building block, reproduction of the virus is stalled.
3. Protease Inhibitors (PIs), such as lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), disable protease, a protein that HIV needs reproduce itself.
4. Fusion Inhibitors, such as enfuvirtide (Fuzeon ), are newer treatments that work by blocking HIV entry into cells.
(View more complete list of HIV drugs).
How many pills you will need to take and how often you will take them depends on what medications you and your doctor choose.
There is no one "best" regimen. You and your doctor will decide which medications are right for you. For people taking HAART for the first time, the recommended regimens are:
- Sustiva + Truvada, Sustiva + Epzicom, or Atripla
- Kaletra + Truvada, Kaletra + Epzicom, or Kaletra + Combivir
In general, taking only one or two drugs is not recommended because any decrease in viral load is almost always temporary without three or more drugs. The exception is the recommendation for pregnant women, who may take Combivir plus nevirapine to reduce the risk of passing HIV to their infants. If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, there are additional treatment considerations. Recently, a number of drugs have been developed that combine two or even three separate medications in a single pill. Some of these, such as Truvada (emtricitabine + tenofovir) and Epzicom (abacavir + lamivudine) need be taken only once daily. Atripla (emtricitabine + tenofovir + efavirenz) combines three drugs in one pill and needs to be taken only once daily, thereby providing a complete HAART regimen with one pill once daily.
The treatment of HIV infection and AIDS is in a highly dynamic state. Individuals with this condition are advised to seek out experts in their local community who are current with the latest modes of therapy and ongoing clinical trials for evaluating newer therapies.
The following is a partial list of drugs approved for the treatment of HIV infection.
Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)
Delavirdine (Rescriptor, DLV) Pfizer
Efavirenz (Sustiva, EFV) Bristol-Myers Squibb
Nevirapine (Viramune, NVP) Boehringer Ingelheim
Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)
Abacavir (Ziagen, ABC) GlaxoSmithKline
Abacavir,Lamivudine, Zidovudine (Trizivir) GlaxoSmithKline
Didanosine (Videx, ddI, Videx EC) Bristol-Myers Squibb
Emtricitabine (Emtriva, FTC, Coviracil) Gilead Sciences
Lamivudine (Epivir, 3TC) GlaxoSmithKline
Lamivudine, Zidovudine (Combivir) GlaxoSmithKline
Stavudine ( Zerit, d4T) Bristol-Myers Squibb
Tenofovir DF (Viread, TDF) Gilead Sciences
Zalcitabine (Hivid, ddC) Hoffmann-La Roche
Atripla (tenofovir, emtricitabine, efavirenz) Gilead Sciences
Zidovudine (Retrovir, AZT, ZDV) GlaxoSmithKline
Protease Inhibitors (PIs)
Amprenavir (Agenerase, APV) GlaxoSmithKline, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Atazanavir (Reyataz, ATV) Bristol-Myers Squibb
Fosamprenavir (Lexiva, FPV) GlaxoSmithKline, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Indinavir (Crixivan, IDV) Merck
Lopinavir, Ritonavir (Kaletra, LPV/r) Abbott Laboratories
Nelfinavir (Viracept, NFV) Agouron Pharmaceuticals
Ritonavir (Norvir, RTV) Abbott Laboratories
Saquinavir (Fortovase, SQV) Invirase Hoffmann-La Roche
Tipranavir (Aptivus) Boehringer-Ingelheim
Darunavir (Prezista) Tibotec Therapeutics
Enfuvirtide (Fuzeon, T-20) Hoffmann-La Roche, Trimeris