HIV medicamentos

HIV part 2—living with the virus and the cocktail

Last post we presented a brief history of HIV treatment over the past 30 years. The current recommended treatment is a “cocktail” of usually three different drugs, each of which attacks the virus in a different way.

If only one or two drugs are used, the virus is so devious that it will mutate (change) to a stronger form, a form resistant to the medication the person is taking. But if several drugs are used simultaneously, this usually does not happen, and the person can stay healthy for a very long time.

The growing consensus is that if someone faithfully sticks to the cocktail treatment regimen, that they might live a normal lifespan. It’s really too early to say, since we need more time to see the long-term course of patients on the cocktails, but the optimism is strong.

The individual drugs in these cocktails have been improved over the years and the side effects have greatly lessened. The drug schedules are also much easier—most people can be treated on a twice-a-day pill schedule. And if they develop side effects or their viral load (virus count) increases, there are almost always alternative medications that can be substituted in the cocktail that probably will be effective to lower the viral load again.

Still, there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS, and to even keep the virus in check, a patient needs a lifetime commitment to medication, or until a cure is found. If they quit the medications, they might develop even worse virus mutations and infections that will be much harder to treat.

One of the biggest questions in HIV therapy is: when start treatment? Wait until the virus shows up in higher numbers, or treat as soon as a person learns he is HIV positive?  The growing consensus is that everyone who is HIV positive should be on treatment, and best to start soon after it is discovered they are HIV positive.

The evidence is showing that the sooner someone is treated, even if they have no symptoms, the better they will do in the long run. If untreated, the virus is working in the background causing damage to various organs and the immune system; so the sooner the treatment is started, the better.

Another huge advantage of treating everyone who is HIV positive is that effective treatment has been shown to cut the risk of transmission to another person by up to 96% So in the ideal situation, if all HIV positive people were getting effective treatment, the rate of HIV transmission would plummet towards zero.

HIV treatment is, as it has been for almost 30 years, filled with controversy, but all experts agree that everyone at risk should have the HIV test to know their status. If negative, use safe sex practices. If positive, use safe sex practices and strongly consider the cocktail treatment. It may give the HIV patient a normal or near-normal lifespan, and is beneficial for public health in drastically cutting HIV transmission.

www.aids.gov

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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