Drugs to Treat HIV

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

HIV is a potentially deadly infection. So deadly that there are many different drugs out there that try and stop it. This lesson goes over the major classes of HIV drugs, examples of each, and explanations of their major function in stopping HIV.

Viral Drugs

Cut, copy, and paste. Oh, and hit enter while you're at it. Nope, this has nothing to do with a Word document. Oddly enough it has everything to do with drugs that treat an extremely dangerous virus that can easily kill a person in time, if left untreated. However, a person can live a largely normal life if treated properly.

That virus? HIV. This lesson focuses on drugs that treat HIV.

What is HIV?

Let's make sure you're up to speed on the basics of HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which is a virus that is transmitted by various bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Once it gains entry into the body, it begins to slowly kill important white blood cells. White blood cells are the cells of your body responsible for protecting you against infectious diseases. The type of white blood cell HIV kills off is called a T cell.

HIV (green) coming out of a white blood cell (blue).
HIV

Once HIV has killed enough of these white blood cells, your immune system is severely compromised. Numerous bacteria, viruses, and other organisms can infect a person with such a weak immune system, perhaps fatally. Previously harmless bugs that would never bother a healthy person can end up killing a person with the most severe stage of HIV, known as AIDS. AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Drugs to Treat HIV

Now that you know the basics, let's get back to our enter key and cutting, copying, and pasting you're so familiar with. There are over two-dozen drugs that are designed to treat people with HIV. They work in different ways. In fact, they work in six main ways.

Cut, copy, paste, and enter. Let's get to it.

One class of HIV drugs is called the protease inhibitors. Drugs in this class include ritonavir, darunavir, and atazanavir, among others. These drugs do not allow an enzyme (a specific protein) to cut important protein molecules, molecules HIV needs to become functional.

Then there's the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) class of drugs. These include drugs like efavirenz, nevirapine, and etravirine. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors is a really intimidating term, but we can make this easy. What that's really saying is that with these drugs, HIV can't copy itself and thus can't multiply to make more HIV. Another class of HIV drugs that blocks the copy function is called the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), like zidovudine, abacavir, and lamivudine.

What's next? Ah yes, the paste function. This is where the integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs) come in. These drugs include raltegravir and elvitegravir. This drug class prevents HIV from pasting its genetic material into T cells.

And finally, after disabling the cut, copy, and paste functions, all we're left with is disabling the enter key. How do we do that? With a fusion inhibitor called enfuvirtide or the CCR5 antagonist (entry inhibitor), called maraviroc. These drugs prevent HIV from entering the T cells in the first place!

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support