for Veterans and the Public
What kinds of drugs are available?
Anti-HIV drugs are also called antiretroviral drugs or antiretrovirals (ARVs). A whole treatment regimen is called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. The ARVs work because they attack the HIV virus directly--they cripple the ability of the virus to make copies of itself. Usually an ART regimen consists of 3 different medicines from at least 2 classes (types) of drugs. This is because it takes a powerful combination of medicines to suppress the HIV virus.
There are 5 main classes of anti-HIV drugs:
- Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs or "nukes")
- Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs or "non-nukes")
- Integrase Inhibitors
- Protease Inhibitors (PIs)
- Entry Inhibitors
Each group attacks HIV in its own way and helps your body fight the infection. Most of these drugs come as tablets or capsules. Several of these drugs may be combined into one tablet to make it easier to take your medications. These are known as fixed-dose combinations.
The following is a short description of how each group of drugs works and the names of the individual drugs.
Note: The names of drugs are long and sometimes hard to pronounce. Don't worry! You can always come back and read this again, and you can talk to your VA doctor about questions you have.