Ever heard of Antiretroviral Treatment? For all the times that we know, our bodies have always protected us, one cell at a time. But how will you feel when the group of cells that were meant to protect you are at attack? This is what happens when you are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV. This virus attacks your CD4 cells which form a part of our immune system. So, what is the solution? Even though there hasn’t been a permanent solution to HIV yet, the Antiretroviral treatment or ART has been the most effective in bringing back happiness to the lives of people infected with this virus.
- What is Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) ?
Antiretroviral treatment includes giving the HIV infected person a combination of drugs, also called an HIV regime. This treatment is not a cure for HIV but helps in stopping the HIV cells to multiply in the body. It also increases CD4 cells of the body and thus boosts up the immunity. This way the treatment offers a check and balance to HIV. This treatment increases the probability of the affected person to have a longer & healthier life.
- When is the treatment given?
The person infected with HIV is advised to take this treatment as soon as possible. There is no need to wait. The longer you wait, the higher is the chances you give to HIV to eat up your CD4 cells. The ART treatment provides you with a protective shield. If a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s all the more important to start the treatment so as to prevent the virus from passing on to the baby.
- How is the treatment done? Is it effective?
The ART is done by a combination of drugs you choose from the HIV regime. There are seven different classes of drugs. Your healthcare provider will ask you about your previous and existing health ailments, if you’re pregnant or not and so on. The side effects of various drugs will be monitored and the best combination that suits you the most will be administered to you, notoriously called as the ‘AIDS cocktail’.
- What do these drugs do?
There are different classes of drugs and each of them performs a different function so as to prevent HIV from deteriorating your body. They are as follows:
- Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs), Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcription Inhibitors (NNRTIs), Protease Inhibitors (PIs) – they all target certain proteins of the HIV cells so that the HIV cells do not replicate themselves.
- Fusion Inhibitors (FIs) – they prevent the HIV from entering into the body’s CD4 cells.
- Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitors (INSTIs) – the HIV cells basically replicate themselves by entering the CD4 cells. This inhibitor prevents the already entered HIV in the CD4 cell from replicating itself.
- Where can the treatment be done?
The Government of India had established the National AIDS Control Organisation in 1992 in lieu of the National AIDS Control Programme. They have introduced various ART centres in a network of medical colleges, clinics and NGOs. The list of the same is here.
These centres provide the treatment with counselling & community support. They will ensure that you fight the virus stigma-free.
- What is the cost of this treatment?
The government has made this treatment accessible and free of cost to all at the public health facilities. They have adopted a ‘test-and-treat’ policy wherein whoever gets detected by HIV will be provided with this treatment immediately.
When infected with a virus that has no cure, we all can imagine how uncertain our lives can turn out to be. ART has brought so much hope in the lives of HIV patients. This treatment has been the most effective to the extent that patients no longer feel disheartened to live with the infection. They feel stronger and encouraged to achieve their goals in life. As a community, we need to provide them with a safe and stigma-free environment. We have to remove all our misconceptions and spread awareness. We are all in this together!
About the Author: Vidhi Gada
She is a 4th-year law student from ILS Law College, Pune, who firmly believes the law can be used as a weapon of change in our country and thus began her journey in the field of law. Apart from trying her best to be updated with all the legislations, her interests lie in Human Rights & Intellectual Property Rights. The best way to connect with her is to suggest a song that sets her mood and also, dogs. No! Kidding, she loves all the animals! She really likes dancing, writing and making puns!
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