Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a type of therapy that is used commonly for people suffering from HIV. There is no cure for HIV. But the progression of the virus in the body can be reduced to a near halt with continued adherence to appropriate antiretroviral therapy. The therapy involves the use of at least three antiretroviral drugs together to suppress the expression of the HIV virus and stop its progression to AIDS.
According to WHO’s new recommendation, treatment in adults living with HIV should be initiated when their CD4 cell count falls to a 500 cells/mm³ or less. Efficacy of the treatment is monitored by measuring the viral load (amount of the virus in the blood). The goal of treatment is to get an undetectable viral load in lab tests. It is also recommended to provide antiretroviral therapy – irrespective of their CD4 count – to all children with HIV under 5 years of age, all pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, and to all HIV-positive partners where one partner in the relationship is uninfected. People with HIV with active tuberculosis or with hepatitis B disease are also recommended to receive antiretroviral therapy.
ART can help people live longer, healthier lives and substantially reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others. The risk of transmitting the virus through sexual contact can be reduced by 96% if an HIV-positive person follows an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen. The drugs must be taken at the right time every day. Incorrect or inconsistent therapy can mutate the virus and cause resistance to treatment.