In 1987, a drug called AZT became the first approved treatment for HIV disease. Since then, approximately 30 drugs have been approved to treat people living with HIV/AIDS, and more are under development.
You may have heard these drugs called many different names, including:
- Antiretrovirals (ARVs)
- Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART or ART)
- There are currently five different “classes” of HIV drugs. Each class of drug attacks the virus at different points in its life cycle—so if you are taking HIV meds, you will generally take 3 different antiretroviral drugs from 2 different classes.
This regimen is standard for HIV care and it’s important. That’s because no drug can cure HIV, and taking a single drug, by itself, won’t stop HIV from harming you. Taking 3 different HIV meds does the best job of controlling the amount of virus in your body and protecting your immune system.
Taking more than one drug also protects you against HIV drug resistance. When HIV reproduces, it can make copies of itself that are imperfect and these mutations may not respond to the drugs you take to control your HIV. If you follow the 3-drug regimen, the HIV in your body will be less likely to make new copies that don’t respond to your HIV meds.