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What is Abacavir?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 17, 2024
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Abacavir is the generic name of a medication used to treat individuals with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). While it does not cure the condition, it does help manage the symptoms and the spread of the virus. Available as either a liquid or a tablet, it is generally prescribed alongside other types of medications.

The medication is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI). While it does not destroy instances of the virus that already exist, it does help to prevent the reproduction of the virus. This helps slow the spread throughout the body. The amount of the virus that is present in the body is called the viral load, and the lower this number is, the stronger the immune system is and the less occurrences there typically are of contracting HIV-related illnesses.

Occasionally, abacavir will be administered to individuals who know they are at risk for contracting HIV, or who have already been exposed. This includes administration to women who are pregnant to help prevent HIV from being passed to the unborn baby. Abacavir is an ingredient in several brand name medications that are given to adults who have the disease and to those who are at risk.

Abacavir is not a foolproof medication that completely prevents the development of illnesses related to the disease, however. Those who are taking it and its companion medications are still capable of spreading the virus to other individuals through physical contact or the sharing of needles. It is not uncommon that the proper administration of abacavir helps to eliminate symptoms of the disease, but medical professionals will continue the prescription and administration because the virus is still present in the system. Taking the medication at the same time every day will generally give the best results.

It is also not uncommon for individuals to be allergic to abacavir. Typically, this allergy manifests itself in the form of side effects including gastrointestinal distress; fatigue; a rash; difficulty breathing; and cold symptoms, such as a fever and sore throat. If an individual who is taking abacavir skips a number of doses and then begins taking it again, it is possible that his or her body can develop an allergy that wasn't there for the first treatment. A medical professional may change the dosage throughout the treatment, so many will request an individual taking the medication undergo regular medical exams.

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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