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What Are the Benefits of Taking an Antiviral for HIV?

By S. Berger
Updated May 17, 2024
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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the term for an organism that has been linked to autoimmune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This virus does not appear to have a known cure as of 2011, although there are some medications that can slow the progression of AIDS among some individuals. Generally, these medications fall under the category of antivirals, which disrupt viral life cycles in a variety of ways. Taking an antiviral for HIV can produce several benefits in the form of reducing the amount of the virus in the body, as well as delaying the onset and progress of AIDS.

Several types of these drugs exist that can potentially treat this virus. Normally, individuals at risk take more than one antiviral for HIV. Using two or three of these drugs in combination can provide greater benefits than taking only one, because viruses can sometimes adapt to a single compound and become resistant to them. Multiple drug therapy, sometimes called highly active antiretroviral therapy, helps to prevent this resistance from developing in many cases.

Usually, individuals using this type of combination therapy use types of antiviral for HIV that have different effects. Common antiviral combinations include a protease, which prevents new viruses from forming, and a reverse-transcriptase inhibitor, which interferes with the way viruses copy their genetic information. When this type of antiviral therapy is begun early after infection, individuals can often lengthen their lifespan; early treatment can slow the rate at which HIV spreads in the body, delaying the onset of AIDS.

Other benefits may become apparent from using an antiviral for HIV. Many times, the progression of the virus is monitored by estimating viral load, or the amount of HIV that is present in a blood sample, as well as estimates of immune cells in these samples. Generally, treatment with antiviral therapies cause the viral load to grow more slowly, and in some individuals, may remain somewhat constant for years. Additionally, immune cells, which eventually become infected and die from the AIDS virus, tend to remain at higher levels when treatment is used.

Taking an antiviral for HIV can help to manage this virus, and its associated disease. More aggressive therapy can often produce greater benefits, although sometimes, there can be higher risks of side effects. Many individuals that detect and begin treatment early, however, can often have improved outcomes by using a combination of these dugs.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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