Fifteen years ago, the prospects for HIV-infected patients were very grim. Today, according to Mr. Christopher M. Dezii, Associate Director of Bristol-Myers Squibb Virology, HIV has turned from a “death sentence” to a “treatable chronic disease.” However, treatment for HIV is still not easy because of many side effects from the powerful antiretroviral drugs. “It’s not fun to be in HIV drug therapy,” says Dr. Lynn Key.
Drugs for the treatment of HIV focus on disrupting some portion of the HIV life cycle. Currently, there are several classes of drugs available, each focusing on a specific part of the life cycle. The most common and effective treatment plan is a combination of three or more of these drugs, termed Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment (HAART). This can kill HIV to undetectable levels. Unfortunately for some of the poverty-stricken regions with highest HIV prevalence, HAART is very expensive.
|Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors – prevents HIV from converting its RNA into DNA|
|Non-Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors– prevents HIV from converting its RNA into DNA|
|Protease inhibitors– prevents HIV from “packaging” itself to leave the cell|
|Entry inhibitors– prevents the HIV genetic information from ever entering the cell|
|Integrase inhibitors– prevents HIV from inserting its genetic information into the cell|
|Vaccine - Is it possible?|
Future treatment for HIV will include more entry inhibitors and integrase inhibitors. Pharmaceutical companies are also focusing on decreasing the number of pills a day a patient has to take, as well as decreasing the number of side effects associated with antiretroviral medications.
As of 2004, there are no drugs that are a true "cure" to this disease.