AIDS and HIV: understand antiretroviral treatment and effects

Getting diagnosed with HIV can be daunting.

The AIDS is a dangerous disease and has no cure, but there are already treatments that can allow you to keep a good quality of life, and live in the same way that a person who is not a carrier of the virus.

Although it is not possible to completely eliminate the HIV virus from the body, it is possible to leave it in lower numbers.

The sooner treatment is started, the more effective it will be and will reduce the chances of AIDS developing .

Therefore, it is essential to start treatment as soon as possible.

Antiretroviral drugs

HIV treatment consists of antiretroviral drugs. It is provided free of charge by the Unified Health System (SUS) and the standardized version is made up of 3 different drugs, to increase effectiveness.

All anti-AIDS drugs prevent the virus from reproducing.

There are more than 20 different drugs that act on HIV, divided into 5 categories that hinder viral reproduction in different ways.

It is extremely important not to forget to take the medication and carry out the treatment, in addition to not stopping it.

The anti-AIDS cocktail does not eliminate the virus, it just prevents it from reproducing. This means that if the patient stops taking medication, the virus can multiply again.

To find out how to get free access to medicines, call your local health department or seek information from a health facility near you.

Side effects

Antiretroviral drugs can cause side effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting, insomnia , restlessness, in addition to having the ability to harm the kidneys, liver and bones.

Therefore, food and exercise are very important to reduce the potential effects.

It is also essential that the patient visits the doctor frequently to monitor the condition and adjust the medications.

What are the results of the treatment?

When HIV treatment is started early, the virus can become undetectable . This means that their numbers become so low that the exams are unable to find them.

Only a viral load test, which counts the amount of viruses in the blood, is able to find them.

The treatment makes the viral load suppressed, which means that, while it is being done, the virus does not reproduce, does not act and is not transmitted.

A study published in 2016 found that the deleted virus is not sexually transmitted.

In that study, thousands of couples in which one partner was seropositive (HIV positive) with suppressed viral load and the other was not HIV positive were analyzed. Despite unprotected sexual intercourse, none of the couples experienced the transmission of the virus in this state.

If the person leaves the treatment, the virus starts to reproduce and becomes transmissible, so it is essential that the treatment is followed for this to happen.

It is also important that the level of viral load is monitored regularly to ensure the effectiveness of treatment.

Understand how the HIV virus acts in the body

When a virus enters our body, it injects its genetic material into cells, forcing them to create more viruses, increasing their numbers.

The cell then dies and releases these produced viruses, which in turn attack other cells.

Normally, the immune system is responsible for dealing with viruses. It identifies the invader and uses immune cells to attack it, destroying viruses before they are able to infect many cells.

Each virus usually has a preference for specific cell types and the target cells of HIV are the macrophages and the lymphocytes, cells of the immune system.

The HIV incubation period is long, so it can take years before AIDS and its symptoms start to manifest.

But eventually it does and the result is a weakened immune system, as many of its cells are infected and destroyed.

Why is there no cure?

The big problem with HIV is its genetic variability . It is what prevents the immune system itself from winning the disease, in addition to what prevents the production of a vaccine.

When the immune system comes into contact with a virus for the first time, it produces cells specific to that virus.

Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to the infectious agent, often in a weakened state, so that it learns to deal with that agent.

That’s why, after we have chickenpox once, we never get it again. The body already knows what the virus is like and before it can cause the whole problem again, the viruses are eliminated.

The flu vaccine immunizes the person for some time, but the flu virus evolves very fast. So, after a year, it is possible that a slightly different virus invades the body and the immune system is not prepared to deal with it.

The result is the flu, and with a few days, the cells suitable for coping with it are produced.

In the case of HIV, this does not happen. Despite being incubated for a long time, after it leaves this state, HIV reproduces very fast and with a gigantic genetic variety.

On the same day, a person with the active HIV virus may have several different HIV mutations.

This means that it doesn’t matter that the immune system is exposed to the virus, when it finishes producing cells capable of eliminating a type, it has already evolved several times in order to be immune to the immune system.

Difference between HIV and AIDS

The acronyms HIV and AIDS do not mean the same thing.

HIV is Human Immunodeficiency Virus , which translated into Portuguese means Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

This is the name of the virus that causes AIDS, which means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome , or, in Portuguese, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

HIV is a retrovirus, which means that its genetic material is RNA rather than DNA. It injects the RNA into the host cell, converts it to DNA and then the cell produces more viruses with RNA, restarting the cycle.

That is, AIDS is the name of the disease while HIV is the name of the virus . So, being diagnosed with the virus does not mean you have AIDS.

However, without treatment, the virus multiplies, affects the cells of the nervous system and then you can develop AIDS, considered a serious stage of the infection.

The virus is transmissible through blood and sexual contact. Using a condom is the best way to prevent HIV.


The treatment of HIV and AIDS does not cure the condition, but it can guarantee the patient’s quality of life, as well as the health of the organism.

In addition, there is the possibility of making the virus non-transmissible while the treatment continues.

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