There are currently no vaccines or cure for HIV or AIDS but directly after exposure to the disease, patients will undergo several post-exposure treatments.  This involves highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, which utilizes five classes of HIV drugs, each attacking the disease at different levels of its progression.  There is no cure for the disease, but HAART is used to improve quality of life, reduce complications, and reduce the virus below the limit of detection.  Patients are advised to take a cocktail of drugs from the following list in order to combat the disease:

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)

Sometimes called “nukes,” these drugs block HIV’s ability to use enzymes to correctly build new DNA that the virus needs to thrive and multiply.  Essentially, nukes act as faulty building blocks in viral DNA production.

Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)

Known as “non-nukes,” these drugs act directly on the enzyme to prevent it from functioning correctly.

Protease Inhibitors (PIs)

The HIV virus uses an enzyme called “protease” to cut longer strands of DNA into shorter, more functional strands that can be easily replicated, allowing HIV to create more copies of itself. PIs block the assembly of new HIV virus particles, inhibiting the virus’ protease.

Cell Entry Blockers

There are two types of entry blockers: entry inhibitors and fusion inhibitors.  Entry inhibitors block the virus at the cell surface, preventing it from getting inside the cell at all, while fusion inhibitors target the structures on cells that bond HIV cells to CD4 cells.  These inhibitors prevent HIV from “docking” onto healthy cells.

Integrase Inhibitors

Integrase inhibitors prevent the HIV virus from adding its own DNA into the DNA in your CD4 cells. This stops the virus from replicating and making new viruses.