Managing HIV Viral Load – Sept. 24, 2020

HIV treatment, known as antiretroviral therapy, or ART, consists of taking medications that slow the progression of the virus in your body. This treatment is recommended for everyone who is HIV positive, regardless of how long it’s been since you were diagnosed or how healthy you are. At One Community Health in Sacramento, we specialize in HIV treatment. Our knowledgeable HIV treatment professionals are leaders in HIV care and offer planning, coordination and follow-up care to ensure your continued health after testing positive for HIV.

What is HIV? 

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if it is left untreated. HIV attacks the CD4 cells (T cells), which are part of the body’s immune system. These cells help to fight off infections in the body. So if HIV is not treated, you are more likely to develop other infections and cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. At this point, the virus has progressed into AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

Treatment Overview

While there may be some promising treatments on the horizon, currently there is no cure available for HIV/AIDS. However, there are many different drugs that are able to control the progression of the virus. Each class of drug blocks different aspects of the virus. Your doctor will likely combine three drugs from two classes to avoid introducing drug-resistant strains of HIV. ART is now recommended for everyone, regardless of CD4 T cell counts.

Why is ART necessary?

Starting and staying on an HIV treatment plan is important because it reduces the HIV viral load to a very low level in your body, which prevents disease from developing. With ART you can lead a long, healthy life. Taking the medication daily as prescribed by your doctor can help you maintain an undetectable viral load, which protects your immune system and means there is virtually no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners. 

What does a typical ART regimen look like?

There are several different classes of HIV medications that work in different ways. A typical ART regimen includes at least three different drugs from two or more classes—however, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take three pills because there are ART options that combine three different medications into one pill. 

There are several reasons for using multiple drugs that fight HIV in different ways:

  • To prevent drug resistance that could develop with using one medication
  • To prevent the creation of new strains of HIV that are resistant to drugs
  • To maximize the effectiveness of lowering the viral load in the blood

Different Classes of HIV Drugs 

  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)—these drugs prevent the virus from making copies of itself by inhibiting the conversion of RNA to DNA.
  • Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)—these drugs block an enzyme the virus needs to replicate itself. 
  • Protease inhibitors (PIs)—this class of drugs turn off a specific HIV protein called protease.
  • Integrase inhibitors—these drugs work by inhibiting an HIV protein called integrase, which allows HIV to insert its genetic material into CD4 T cells
  • Entry or fusion inhibitors—these drugs prevent the virus from entering into CD4 T cells.

For a full list of antiretroviral drugs approved by the FDA, refer to the NIH website.  

HIV Treatment in Sacramento

Working with your doctor at One Community Health to develop an individualized HIV treatment plan can help you manage your viral load effectively. Give us a call if you are looking for compassionate HIV treatment in Sacramento. We want to partner with you so that you can lead a long, healthy life. 

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

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