Antiretroviral treatment is medication-assisted treatment, slowing down the reproduction of human immunodeficiency virus. It allows extending the lifespan of people living with HIV, improving the quality of their lives and suspending the development of opportunistic infections and, correspondingly, AIDS (the forth clinical stage of HIV infection).
In printed materials as well as among relevant specialists and patients of ARV treatment one may find such abbreviations as ART, ARVT or HAART (highly active antiretroviral treatment). All those abbreviations refer to the same notion.
Indications for ARV treatment prescription. ARV treatment is prescribed by a doctor of an AIDS Center to an HIV positive patient, if the blood test of the latter shows high level of the viral load or low CD4 count.
Viral load is the amount of viral particles in a unit of blood. It indicates the activity of HIV reproduction in a human body. It is recommended that any patient whose level of HIV copies/mcl of blood is higher than 100,000 should use ARV medications.
CD4 cells (T-lymphocytes)are the immune cells which HIV destroys. Their amount indicates the state of human immune system. When the amount of CD4 cells falls below 350 in one cubic millimeter of blood, there is a need to start treatment with ARV medications.
Opportunistic diseases are thediseases of a patient with weak immune system caused by agents which as a rule are not pathogenic for a healthy individual. Many of such microorganisms may be found in latent (hidden) form mostly in all people, while they are able to cause diseases only in cases when the immune system is considerably weakened.
HIV-associated disease is a disease which develops as a result of human immune system being affected with HIV. It may be an opportunistic infection (tuberculosis, Candida infection, herpes) or some types of cancer (e.g., lymphoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, cervical cancer).
If before prescription of ARV treatment an HIV-positive patient demonstrates symptoms of one of the HIV-associated diseases (e.g., tuberculosis), such patient should be first prescribed a course of medications to treat such disease; otherwise ARV treatment may lead to a relapse of the disease, making the therapy not effective.