Summary of Study Session 22

In Study Session 22, you have learned that:

  1. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) means giving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to people who are HIV-positive to reduce the level of viruses in their bodies and increase the number of CD4 lymphocytes.
  2. There are three big groups of ARVs (NRTIs, NNRTIs and PIs).
  3. The standard regimen in ART is to give a combination of three different ARV drugs for maximum possible treatment effect, and to overcome or delay the development of drug resistance by HIV. Prescribing only one ARV drug increases the risk of resistance developing quickly to that drug.
  4. ART has many benefits, including improving the quality of life for patients, decreasing stigma and discrimination, prevention of transmission of the virus from mother to child, and increasing uptake of other HIV services, like counselling and testing.
  5. First-line drug regimens are given to patients who have never taken ARV drugs previously. If these combinations fail, or the patient experiences severe side effects, different second-line or even third-line drug combinations can be prescribed, but these are more expensive and may be less effective.
  6. The most common side-effects of ARV drugs are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches, especially in the first few weeks of ART. Examples of serious side effects which require urgent referral are severe abdominal pain, fever, yellow eyes, tingling and numbness, fatigue with shortness of breath, yellow eyes, pallor (anaemia) and skin rash.

22.4  ARV side-effects and how to manage them

Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) for Study Session 22