Did you receive an HIV diagnosis? HIV isn’t curable but you can take an HIV cocktail to slow the progression of the virus. Here’s an overview of HIV treatment.
In the United States, around 1.1 million people are infected with the HIV virus. Many are actually unaware they’re living with this disease.
Perhaps you’ve just gone to the doctor because you’re feeling under the weather, and you’ve received shocking news.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with HIV, you may feel devastated. While it’s not curable, with today’s advances in medicine, you can definitely manage this disease with an HIV cocktail. Keep reading to find out what this entails.
What Is an HIV Cocktail?
“HIV cocktail” is a casual way of saying the medical term “antiretroviral therapy” (ART). As the name suggests, an HIV cocktail doesn’t consist of just one medication. Instead, it’s a whole regimen of them to get you the best treatment available and keep your viral load low.
This type of treatment is recommended for everyone who has HIV. And it’s highly recommended you start the treatment as soon as you’re diagnosed with this virus. By doing so, you can extend your lifespan and also live a healthier, more active life.
Another benefit of being on an HIV cocktail is you reduce the risk of transmission as well. A result is a viral load that’s too low to detect, which means there’s basically zero chance of transmitting HIV to your non-infected partners.
How Does It Work?
While ART isn’t a cure for HIV, it can still give you a much better quality of life. If you start it early enough, you may be able to live without any adverse symptoms of HIV. It can also help you delay the onset of AIDS.
To understand how ARTworks, you must first understand how HIV works. When you’re infected, the virus wears down your immune system’s CD4 cells.
With enough time, your immune system won’t be able to fight off infections, which means you develop AIDS. Without proper treatment, death can come quickly.
ARTworks by preventing the HIV virus from multiplying. By keeping the virus load in check, the medications allow your immune system to recover and become stronger. With enough time, your body becomes strong and healthy enough to keep fighting off infections.
How Long Does It Take to Work?
The main goal of ART is to reduce the viral load to such a low number that it’s undetectable. Because of this, you won’t see significant effects immediately.
Instead, it may take 3 to 6 months for your results to come back as undetectable. Do remember that this doesn’t mean you’re cured; it only means your HIV infection is well under control as far as replication goes.
What’s in an HIV Cocktail?
In total, there are 7 drug classes for HIV medications. Generally, your doctor will prescribe 3 medicines across at least 2 different classes.
The 7 drug classes are:
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
- Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
- Integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs)
- Protease inhibitors (PIs)
- Fusion inhibitors
- CCR5 antagonists
- Post-attachment inhibitors
Most physicians will first start you off with 2 NRTIs and either an NNRTI or a PI. That PI can then be strengthened with either cobicistat or ritonavir; both increase the effectiveness of PIs.
Your exact prescribed medicines will depend on things like if you’re pregnant, have heart disease, or have a drug-resistant strain of HIV. Your doctor may also take into consideration the possible side effects, your personal lifestyle, and the cost of the cocktail.
Warning About Truvada
Make sure you avoid the drug Truvada. It’s been found that it has a chemical that’s associated with kidney and bone complications—tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. Many past lawsuits filed against Gilead (the manufacturer) are still ongoing, but results are looking promising.
If you or someone you know has been on Truvada, you should seek a lawyer’s help to sue and get fair compensation.
What Are the Possible Side Effects?
As with all medications, unfortunately, HIV cocktails do come with possible side effects. While every person’s body may react differently to each drug, here are some of the more common side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Trouble sleeping
In general, the benefits from an HIV cocktail far outweigh the possible side effects. This is especially true with the development of newer, better drugs of today.
However, if you experience major discomfort, you need to get in touch with your doctor. They can either change your HIV cocktail and/or prescribe other medications that’ll help ease the side effects you’re feeling.
Side effects that require immediate medical attention include:
- Swelling of the tongue
- Swelling of the throat
- Liver damage
Other side effects may occur due to other medications or supplements you’re on. Be sure to tell your doctor about these so they know which medications to avoid or adjust.
Also, do be aware that HIV can mutate while you’re infected. Because of this, you may develop some drug resistance. This is why it’s vital you keep up with your medications and doctor’s appointments; if anything is amiss, your physician can promptly adjust your HIV cocktail and give you a better quality of life.
Live Longer With the Proper HIV Cocktail
As you can see, with the proper HIV cocktail, you can live a longer, more normal life if you have a positive diagnosis.
The important thing to remember is you need to be vigilant about keeping up with your medications. If you have any lapses in your doses, this increases your chances of drug resistance, which can lead to treatment failure.
If you start feeling different, you may need to make an appointment with your doctor. They can help you figure out what’s working, what’s not, and adjust your medications accordingly so you can continue having a low viral load.
For more interesting reads, please take a look at our other blog articles.