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How is HIV treated?

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Quick Answer

HIV is suppressed in the body using antiretroviral drugs, or ARVs, according to AIDS.gov. Highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, that combines multiple antiretroviral drugs may be implemented for treatment. As of 2015, there is no cure for HIV.

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Thirty antiretroviral drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating HIV infection, notes AIDS.gov. These drugs do not eliminate HIV from the body, but instead suppress the virus and make it possible for those infected with HIV to live longer lives. The virus can be suppressed for decades using drug therapies.

Five classes of HIV drugs are on the market, each of which attacks the virus at different points in its evolution, according to AIDS.gov. Some drugs work by blocking a step in virus reproduction, while others prevent the virus from copying its own DNA or from entering the cells.

Most people taking medications for HIV suppression take three different antiretroviral drugs from two separate drug classes, says AIDS.gov. This combination of medications controls the viral load in the body and works to protect the immune system from damage. The combination also helps to keep HIV-infected patients from becoming resistant to HIV drugs due to mutations of the virus.

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