Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cannot be eradicated once it enters a person’s body. However, there are many scientifically-proven effective ways on how to treat and manage it in order to have a comfortable and productive life. Depending on the condition and progression of HIV, there are various options on how to manage it. Here are some questions and answers about the treatment options of HIV and AIDS:

What Are The Treatment Options for HIV?

Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

This is considered an emergency HIV drug that is to be taken within 24 to 72 hours of being exposed to the virus. This is no different from antiretroviral drugs (ART) but this treatment means the consumption of ART after being suspected to be exposed from HIV.

How would you know if you have been potentially exposed to HIV?

  1. If you’ve engaged in sexual activity with an HIV-positive person without the usage of condoms or if there was breakage of condoms.
  2. You’ve shared needles or syringes with someone who is HIV-positive.
  3. Received a blood transfusion or your bodily fluids of someone who is HIV-positive has been transferred to you via an open wound - this is rare but possible.

Where Is PEP available?

PEP requires a prescription from a doctor but any healthcare provider can give it to you as long as you have sufficient information about your potential exposure to HIV

What Are The Side Effects?

There are no life-threatening and severe side effects of PEP but may cause nausea to some people.

What is the usual course when prescribed with PEP?

Usually, most people take PEP once or twice for a span of 28 days. This is not an ideal medicine for people who are frequently exposed to HIV (e.g. having a partner who is HIV-positive). The PEP should also be used for emergency purposes only.

Antiretroviral Drugs (ART)

Antiretroviral drugs or therapy work by suppressing the virus, its progression and its effect on the body. While this type of drug does not completely eradicate the virus from the body of an HIV-positive person, it helps decrease the risk of complications and improves the quality of life. The purpose of the drugs is to reduce the viral load of a person to undetectable levels, so if an HIV-positive person who has been taking ART for a period time subjects himself to HIV-test, there is a chance that he might be diagnosed as HIV-negative - but this does not mean that HIV is no longer existent in his body, it simply means that the viral load of HIV is so low that it is no longer detectable.

How does ART work?

It prevents HIV from spreading and multiplying over a person’s body so the person’s healthy cells, which include CD4 cells are protected instead of being targeted by the virus. Treatment from HIV may require a combination of different types of antiretroviral drugs and there are already medicines that contain combined classes of these drugs. If treatment is effective, it is expected that the viral load within an HIV-positive person will decrease within 6 months.

What are the different types of ART?

There are many different types of ART and each of them differs based on the type of enzyme or the site of the enzyme that they act on. See below for these categories:


How It Works

Enzyme Acted On

Example Drugs

Entry Inhibitors

Prevents HIV from entering targeted cells (CD4)



Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)

Blocks viral reverse transcriptase - an enzyme required to replicate HIV

Viral Reverse Transcriptase






Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)

Blocks viral reverse transcriptase - an enzyme required to replicate HIV

Viral Reverse Transcriptase (different site)






Integrase Inhibitors

Blocks the transmission of genetic material from HIV to CD4 cells




Protease Inhibitors

Impedes HIV protease which is required to replicate HIV

HIV Protease





How Is Treatment Monitored?

Treatment is monitored by periodic monitoring of CD4 cells and viral load.

For patients that have a higher risk due to age or condition, kidney and liver function tests are done.

Are There Side-Effects For The Treatments?

Depending on the condition of the person, there are various side effects that can happen once HIV medicines are taken in a regular manner. Below are some of the most common side effects:

  • High blood sugar and diabetes
  • Kidney Damage
  • Liver Damage
  • Bone Loss
  • Nauseousness

If another medication for another illness is to be done, one must consult her GP to ensure that there are no harmful interactions to your HIV medicine.

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What Are The Treatment Options for AIDS?

AIDS is an advanced stage of HIV has no cure. For people diagnosed with AIDS, they have the same treatment options as those who have HIV-1 or have a combination of different antiretroviral drugs and medication for their complications. Their treatment is based on the severity of their complications and how much the virus has spread throughout their body.

Mark Riegel, MD
Mark Riegel, MD

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