What to Start Treatment With?

Part of HIV Medications: When to Start and What to Take

There are more than two dozen U.S. government-approved HIV medications. However, none of these medications can cure HIV, and no single drug taken alone is effective. But when several medications (usually three or four) are taken in combination, they can control the quantity of virus in your body and maintain the health of your immune system. This combination is called Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy, or HAART.

There are five different types, or "classes," of HIV medications:

  • Entry inhibitors
  • Integrase inhibitors
  • NNRTIs (non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
  • NRTIs (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
  • PIs (protease inhibitors)

All five classes of medications have been designed to interfere with HIV's ability to copy itself -- that is, to reproduce inside your body. Each class of medication stops the virus at a different moment in its reproductive cycle.

All HAART regimens consist of medications from at least two of these five classes. That way, your treatment can hit HIV from at least two directions at once, increasing the chances that treatment will be a success.

With so many HIV medications available, how can you and your doctor be sure that you're putting together a regimen of the best possible medications for you? Choosing a regimen isn't always the easiest thing to do, but with a knowledgeable HIV doctor on your side, you can pick a HAART regimen that will keep the HIV in your body off balance for many, many years -- provided you take your doses properly.