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What treatments are available to people living with HIV AIDS and are they effective?


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When HIV/AIDS first spread into humans, it was a death sentence.  A person who was HIV positive was destined to develop AIDS.  We also lacked sufficient information about how the viruses was transmitted, which led to a significant amount of social discrimination and fear.  Combined with the fact that HIV/AIDS initially developed in the gay community, which already faced significant discrimination, and the result was delays in research for treatment and cures.  Fortunately, although we still have not developed a vaccine to prevent the transmission of HIV, there are a number of treatments available for those with HIV/AIDS.

The treatment for HIV is known as antiretroviral therapy (ART).  With effective ART, people with HIV can get their viral load under control within six months.  The viral load refers to how much HIV is in the blood.  The higher your viral load, the more likely you are to develop AIDS and the more likely you are to transmit the virus to people who share your bodily fluids, including sexual and injection partners.  With effective ART, you can reduce your viral load to very low levels and even make it undetectable.  If the virus in undetectable, it is not transmittable.  However, that does not mean that you are cured; there is currently no cure for HIV and stopping medications will result in your viral load increasing.

Medications for HIV fall into several main classes.  These classes include protease inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, CCR5 antagonists, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, integrase strand transfer inhibitors, attachment inhibitors, post-attachment inhibitors, pharmacokinetic enhancers, and combination medications.  There may be more than one medication in each class and each medication may have a generic and a brand name. In addition to post-exposure treatment, there is also pre-exposure treatment for people in high-risk groups.  Known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, this refers to medication taken to prevent getting HIV and it can reduce someone’s risk of getting HIV through sex by up to 99%. 

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