AIDS is a scary word. It is one of those words on a medical test that will keep you up at night. Waiting for the results flashbacks to all the times of unprotected sex and wishing you used a condom. Or the times, you did some heroin and shared a needle, whatever your preference was. You look for the obvious symptoms such as lesions and the flu. The slightest rash on your body has you running to websites to quietly self diagnose. AIDS is the final result of the HIV virus. If you want to feel better, most HIV infected people will not die of AIDS but rather some other disease.
What Is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a retrovirus that adapts and slowly destroys your immune system. Most common viruses cause flu like symptoms and over time, your body is able to defend itself and eliminate them. HIV doesn’t quite work that way. This virus is not able to be defeated by your immune system. One of the main reasons is that it attacks your T-cells (white blood cells) which are critical for your immune system to work. This action also makes it hard to find an HIV cure.
If There Is No Cure
Just because there is no cure for HIV doesn’t mean that you will die immediately. There are antiretroviral (ARV) prescription drugs available that keep the HIV virus at bay and in low enough levels that your immune system is not compromised. There are combination antiviral drugs that along with regular testing can keep you functioning as a normal member of society. These combination drugs attack the HIV virus at various stages of development and is known as HAART which stands for highly active antiretroviral therapy. This process has been very successful in reducing AIDS symptoms but not HIV infections.
There are several classes of antiretroviral drugs. I will be discussing the class of HIV medications known as protease inhibitors. HIV uses T-cells to reproduce itself. It needs a protease enzyme known as HIV protease to make copies and flourish. The HIV meds that have a protease inhibitor prevent the virus from copying itself. It will not die off, but it will stay dormant in your immune system. Some of the more common protease inhibitors include Crixivan, Viracept, Invirase, Norvir, Lexiva, Reyataz and Prezista to name a few. This drug is one part of the cocktail needed to maintain the disease.
Let’s take for example the great hall of fame basketball player Magic Johnson who contracted the HIV virus from unprotected sex. He was one of the first celebrities to take the combination antiretroviral drug therapies. He has made it known that the virus is still present in his body, but it is at such low levels, that it is barely detectable. Today he is leading a healthy long life.
How are you coping with HIV treatments?