Treatment approaches

Understanding the life cycle of HIV in the body

We are going to use a couple of videos to explain how HIV takes over cells in our body, and how treatment works by blocking that process. These videos were made for nurses and they assume a fair bit of knowledge. Feel free to watch them for a general sense of the story. You don’t need to remember specific details like the code names of different proteins, or the different kinds of genetic material (DNA and RNA). Also note that these videos are from 2015 and they don’t acknowledge that undetectable viral load means HIV cannot be sexually transmitted (see next topic).

Video: How HIV gets into cells in the body. HIV drugs work by blocking steps in this process.

Using HIV drugs to block infection and replication

Video: different drugs target and block different steps in the process of infection and replication in cells.

Takehome points

  • There are multiple points where drugs can disrupt the lifecycle of HIV in a human cell.
  • Each class of HIV drugs targets a different point in the HIV lifecycle.
  • Disrupting the lifecycle of HIV causes replication (the production of new HIV particles) to slow down a lot, meaning fewer new HIV particles are produced.
  • When replication slows down a lot, it is hard for HIV to generate new mutations (genetic changes) that can give it the capability to resist anti-HIV drugs.
  • We combine two or more classes of drugs to slow down replication a lot and prevent HIV from becoming resistant.
  • It is important to take your medication each day as prescribed to ensure there are always at least two classes of drugs present in your cells at any given moment.
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