Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) is the name given to treatment regimens recommended by leading HIV experts to aggressively suppress viral replication and progress of HIV disease.
The usual HAART regimen combines multiple (three or more) different anti-HIV drugs that are prescribed to many HIV-positive people, even before they develop symptoms of AIDS (and without considering that many will never develop these symptoms).
The HAART usually includes:
- one nucleoside analog (DNA chain terminator)
- one protease inhibitor (PI) and
- either a second nucleoside analog (“nuke”) or a non-nucleoside reverse transcription inhibitor (NNRTI).
These treatment regimens have been shown to reduce the amount of virus so that it becomes undetectable in a patient's blood.
The World Health Organization is orchestrating a global effort to get 3 million people onto anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs by the end of 2005.
Unfortunately, adherence to HAART is very difficult because of its toxicity and multiple side effects. Patients taking these three-drug “cocktails” can develop:
- various forms of anemia, sometimes irreversible (ARVs almost always include one or two nucleoside analogs, drugs like AZT that are notorious for their toxicity to red and white blood cells and blood cell production)
- bone loss
- cancer (quite commonly associated with the use of ARVs)
- heart disease (apparently related to the mechanism that also causes fat/triglyceride redistribution)
- serious or even fatal liver damage, or
- neurological (nervous system) damage.
Unfortunately, HIV stays with you. The HAART can suppress the virus and protect the immune system - but only if it’s taken on schedule, every day, for life. However, the concerns about HAART are very disturbing.
PLEASE NOTE: People with HIV/AIDS (PHAs) can develop high triglyceride (TG) levels in their blood - whether or not they are taking anti-HIV drugs. (The term PHA stands for Person With HIV/AIDS or People With HIV/AIDS, and refers to any person, at any stage living with HIV disease).