All you need to know about antiretroviral therapy and how it works

World AIDS Day 2021: All you need to know about antiretroviral therapy and how it works



Through Anti-retroviral therapy, patients effectively overpower the HIV replication that takes place in the body

Every year on 1 December, World AIDS Day is marked to create and raise awareness about Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). According to data provided by the Indian government, HIV infection was first spotted in the year 1986 among female sex workers in Chennai.

During that time, it was considered to be a deadly disease as it had no cure, but today people suffering with HIV can lead a normal life with the help of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

What is antiretroviral therapy or ART?

ART is a primary treatment for HIV, however, not a complete cure for the infection. It is a ‘drug cocktail’ where patients suffering from HIV have to take a combination of up to seven antiretroviral drugs depending upon the viral load of the disease every single day. Furthermore, as per the World Health Organization (WHO) ART helps in reducing the risk of transmitting HIV.

ART Treatment:

Through Anti-retroviral therapy, patients effectively overpower the HIV replication that takes place in the body. If this therapy is done at the right time, it will restore the immune system as well as halt onset and progression of the disease. With the right medication at the right time, patients will enhance both quality of life and longevity, while reducing their chances of contracting opportunistic infections.

If any patient follows irregularity in its pattern in this treatment, then it can lead to resistance to HIV drugs resulting in weakening its effect. Currently, ART is available to those who need it. Additionally, public health facilities across the country are directed to ensure that ART is provided to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). Also, special attention is given to women and infected children who suffer from the treatment of sero-positives.

Importance of ART In India:

There are around 544 Care and Support Centres (CSCs) in India who help in improving the number of people adhering to the treatment, as per the 2018-19 Annual Report of the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO). However, as per data by the News Minute, only 50 percent of the 2.1 million HIV+ patients in the country were availing the treatment.

NACO had updated its guidelines in 2017 for ART, making it necessary for every person testing positive for HIV to be put on the treatment, regardless of their CD4 count. For the unversed, a normal CD4 count is from 500 to 1,400 cells per cubic millimetre of blood. However, CD4 counts reduce over time especially in people who are not receiving ART.

So, with the help of these ART centres, services including ART, CD4 counts, along with psychosocial support, referrals to social benefit stigma and schemes are held.



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