22.3.1  Groups of ARV drugs

There are three big groups of ARV drugs available in Ethiopia, as listed below:

  1. The NRTI drugs: this stands for ‘Nucleoside and Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors’ (divided into NsRTIs and NtRTIs).
  2. The NNRTI drugs: this stands for ‘Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors’.
  3. The PI drugs: this stands for ‘Protease Inhibitors’.

Note that you don’t need to know the complex mechanisms of action of these drugs. Likewise, you don’t need to memorise the names of the drug groups.

Table 22.1 lists the commonly used ARV drugs in Ethiopia, arranged into the various groups, together with some rarely used drugs. But be aware that the table is not a complete list of all the ARV drugs; for example, it does not include all the rare drugs, or drugs that are not yet available in most resource-constrained settings like Ethiopia. You can use Table 22.1 as a reference in case a patient asks you about a specific drug, but remember to refer him or her to a health centre for more detailed advice than you can give at health post level. The drugs listed in the first three columns of Table 22.1 are the ones most widely used in Ethiopia, and we will say more about them later in this study session (Sections 22.3.3 and 22.4).

Table 22.1  Commonly used antiretroviral drugs (with their common abbreviations).
Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NsRTI)Nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NtRTI)Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI)Protease inhibitors (PI)

Stavudine (d4T)

Lamivudine (3TC)

Zidovudine (AZT or ZDV)

Didanosine (ddI)

Abacavir (ABC)

Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF)

Nevirapine (NVP)

Efavirenz (EFV)

Lopinavir (LPV)

Ritonavir (RTV)



Note that you do not need to memorise the different classes and names of the drugs in Table 22.1

22.3  Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and antiretroviral therapy (ART)

22.3.2  Why is the combination of three antiretroviral drugs necessary?