- Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) uses a combination of antiretroviral drugs that are used as medications to control retroviruses, such as HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and is the virus that leads to the acquired immunodeficiency disorder (AIDS). AIDS is a condition that causes your immune system to fail; when your immune system fails, it opens your body up to life-threatening infections, and you eventually die. According to the FDA, the medications that HAART has to offer caused AIDS to fall out of the top ten causes of death in the United States, and decreased the cases of death related to AIDS from almost 42,000 in 1994 to less than 17,000 in 1997. HAART uses several different medications, usually about three or four, to combat HIV. There are different phases of HAART, and the stage of your retrovirus will determine the phase of medications you will take. These are the different types of medications that allow HAART to work and fight against HIV. Nucleoside and nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor (nRTI) incorporate themselves into your viral DNA and prevent the virus from further elongation. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) binds to your enzyme and interferes with the virus's ability to function. Protease inhibitors (PIs) inhibit the activity of protease, which is an enzyme used by HIV to cleave proteins and create new virons. Integrase inhibitors inhibit integrase, which causes the integration of your viral DNA into an infected cell's DNA. Entry inhibitors interfere with the entry of HIV in your cells by blocking the virus. Maturation inhibitor blocks the conversion of the polyprotein into the capsid protein.
- HAART works against HIV by using these drugs in combination to suppress HIV replication as many times as possible. The combination of these HAART drugs creates problems for HIV replication, keeps the HIV offspring low, and reduces the possibility of HIV mutating. The HAART drugs must be used in combination to suppress HIV for long periods of time, but eventually your body will reject the drugs, and a new combination of HAART drugs will be recommended.
- While HAART does work to control HIV, HAART is not a cure for this virus. It is imperative for you to stick to the HAART regimen, and this includes multiple pills a day. These drugs need to be taken at their prescribed times, and you must adhere to the guidelines from your doctor for HAART to work and be effective. If you don't stick to the schedule and regimen of your drugs, they will stop working. Over the long term, HAART does have its own side effects, and a doctor may wait to prescribe HAART until HIV is about to start damaging your immune system.