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This article is the conclusion of the series on HIV medication.  To find the introduction to the series, go here.

The world of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) medication is an extensive one. With six different FDA-approved drugs available to choose from, each with its own merits, HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was. Although the six HIV medications operate with the fundamental goal of preventing HIV from spreading, they each target different aspects of the virus.

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) both target one of HIV’s enzymes, reverse transcriptase. NRTIs were the first HIV drugs to be approved by the FDA and play a fundamental role in starting HIV treatment regimens. NNRTIs, conversely, should be taken with other HIV medications to effectively treat the virus.

 HIV/AIDS can be tested for in the blood.

Image Source: Tony Bee

Protease inhibitors are some of the older HIV medications and must usually be taken with multiple other medications to be effective. They are generally taken in conjunction with NRTIs, though there are concerns about their efficacy. Protease inhibitors can be taken with pharmacokinetic enhancers to boost their effectiveness. 

Integrase inhibitors are a fairly recent addition in terms of HIV treatment. They could be more effective than protease inhibitors, but this is still speculation.

Entry inhibitors and fusion inhibitors are few in number and are mostly still in development. However, they have the potential to revolutionize treatment because most HIV strains haven’t developed resistance to them yet, due to the drugs’ limited usage.

 HIV medications are usually prescribed in combination for the best treatment.

Image Source: Bruce Forster

Out of these six drug options, three or four are usually prescribed at a time. Most starter regimens include an integrase inhibitor and one or two NRTIs, or a protease inhibitor and an NRTI. However, the medications that are best for one person are not necessarily the best for another, so the drug regimen can be specialized for each patient.

HIV treatment can be difficult due to the sheer number of medications that need to be taken daily; some combination medicines combine different drugs into one pill to remedy this. Even though HIV can be treated, it is still an international issue. Many different studies are searching for a cure for HIV, or to prevent the virus’s spread. As more research is done, the elimination of HIV becomes more and more possible. With enough diligence and innovative study, perhaps one day HIV can be eliminated entirely.

Featured Image Source: HIV With Antibody by NIAID

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