HIV: Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART)

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HIV: Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART)

Topic Overview

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is the combination of several antiretroviral medicines used to slow the rate at which HIV makes copies of itself (multiplies) in the body. A combination of three or more antiretroviral medicines is more effective than using just one medicine (monotherapy) to treat HIV.

The use of three or more antiretroviral medicines—sometimes referred to as an anti-HIV "cocktail"—is currently the standard treatment for HIV infection. So far, this treatment offers the best chance of preventing HIV from multiplying, which allows your immune system to stay healthy. The goal of antiretroviral therapy is to reduce the amount of virus in your body (viral load) to a level that can no longer be detected with current blood tests.

Antiretroviral medicines that are often used to treat HIV include:

  • Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors, also called nucleoside analogs, such as zidovudine (ZDV), stavudine (d4T), tenofovir, emtricitabine, lamivudine, and abacavir. These medicines are often combined for best results.
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), such as efavirenz, nevirapine, or etravirine.
  • Protease inhibitors (PIs), such as atazanavir, saquinavir, ritonavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, fosamprenavir, lopinavir, darunavir, or tipranavir.
  • Fusion and entry inhibitors, such as enfuvirtide and maraviroc.
  • Integrase inhibitors, such as raltegravir.

Some medicines are available combined together in one pill. This reduces the number of pills needed to be taken each day.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Shalit, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised August 23, 2010

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