We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Combination Antiretroviral Therapy?

By Glyn Sinclair
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Combination antiretroviral therapy is the use of several antiretroviral drugs taken in combination by a patient as a method to combat diseases and retroviruses such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). A retrovirus is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus and is able to inject a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) copy of its hereditary information into the cells as a method of replicating itself. There are several classes of antiretroviral drugs, or "antiretrovirals." When taken in combination they can inhibit the life-cycle of the retrovirus. Although side effects are common during combination antiretroviral therapy, the patient is typically required to adhere to a strict regimen over a long period of time for the drugs to be effective.

When used in combination, the drugs basically put up multiple barriers to the virus’s ability to replicate. The theory behind combination drug therapy is the hope that if resistance to one of the drugs arises, then the other drugs will serve to combat the resistance. Usually three drugs are used in combination: a protease inhibitor and two nucleoside-analog Reverse-Transcriptase Inhibitors (RTIs). This is sometimes referred to as the triple cocktail. There have been very few, if any, cases of successful suppression of HIV virus when just one single drug has been employed.

There a number of adverse effects that can be experienced during combination antiretroviral therapy. These vary due to factors like ethnicity and negative interactions with other medications. The side effects can include nausea, hepatitis, jaundice and liver failure, among others. The drugs can have severe side effects for those in which the disease is already advanced. Other concerns include patients that develop resistance due to continually missing doses, as well as cost, with the majority of the affected population unable to afford the drugs.

Due to the potential toxicity of combination antiretroviral therapy, an intermittent therapy, or “break” from the drug was sometimes attempted in past patients. This program was designed to give the patient a break from sustained exposure to the drugs and involved discontinuing the drugs for a few days and then reinstating them. In one study, 5,000 infected patients were followed up after 16 months and those that received intermittent therapy had higher rates of opportunistic diseases and death compared to those that were kept on sustained combination antiretroviral therapy. Some of the issues associated with the intermittent therapy included cardiovascular, liver and kidney problems. The program was eventually discontinued as it was considered a failure and thought to actually create drug resistance in patients.

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.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.