The Difference Between HIV and AIDS
HIV weakens the body’s immune system and its ability to protect against diseases. When it is left untreated, the virus multiplies and reduces the body’s CD4 cells, making it almost impossible to fight infections and certain cancers. This progression is called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection.
A person with HIV is not considered to have AIDS until the CD4 cell count is below 200. Though there is no cure, AIDS is a chronic but manageable condition. AIDS treatment in the Philippines follows the same modalities as HIV treatment, which is known as antiretroviral therapy.
How Does Antiretroviral Therapy Work?
People with HIV-positive results are advised to receive treatment as soon as possible so that they have a better chance of managing their condition. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) uses HIV medication to keep the virus from replicating in the patient’s body. A controlled “viral load” allows the immune system to produce more CD4 cells, so that the body has a better chance of fighting infections and staying healthy.
ART follows a personalized treatment plan for the patient, based on the stage of their infection and other individual factors. Patients must strictly take the recommended HIV medications daily to ensure that the viral suppression is sustained, to lessen the risk of developing drug resistance, and to avoid passing the virus to other people.
Antiretroviral Therapy Drugs
These drugs are classified according to how they control the amount of HIV in the body:
- Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTI) block an enzyme that disrupts the virus’s ability to duplicate itself. Some examples are Lamivudine and Tenofovir. Using a combination of NRTIs also makes it possible to take a lower dosage without decreasing efficacy.
- Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs) prevent the virus from creating new DNA to make new virus cells. Examples include Efavirenz and Delvaridine.
- Protease Inhibitors (PI) keep new virus cells from maturing so that they cannot replicate and spread to other cells. Atazanavir and Indinavir are examples.
- Fusion inhibitors keep the virus from entering CD4 cells and fusing with them. Enfuviritide is one example.
- Integrase inhibitors prevent the virus from inputting its genetic material into CD4 cells. These are usually combined together so Elvitegravir and Dolutegravir may both be included in a single pill.
In some cases, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is recommended. This type of treatment combines the use of several drugs to better control the spread of the virus, which is particularly important for those whose infections have progressed to AIDS.