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What Are Antiretrovirals And How Do They Work?

The Effectivity of Antiretroviral Therapy Against HIV/AIDS

The past few decades have brought about some of the most meaningful discoveries in antiretroviral therapy (ART). These fast-paced advancements have allowed treatment to become more easily accessible, benefiting the overall well-being of HIV-affected communities and individuals. 

But how much do you know about the evolution of antiretroviral therapy through the years and how it works? The team of healthcare professionals at Novus, PA, has you covered; read on to discover more! 

ART History Crash Course 

For years, the scientific community has worked tirelessly to find ways to appease one of the most severe epidemics in modern history. Thanks to their thorough research and groundbreaking discoveries, what once was a deadly disease has become a manageable chronic condition. 

The first reported cases of HIV/AIDS came to the surface in 1981. They manifested themselves as a series of lung infections and other diseases that showed the immune systems of those affected –– often gay men–– were collapsing. Cases and deaths escalated exponentially and appeared among different sectors of the population. A year later, the CDC introduced the term Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and defined it as “a disease occurring in a person with no known cause for diminished resistance to that disease”.  

In 1983, a team of French researchers identified a retrovirus they believed could be at the root of AIDS and named it lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV). In the US, the CDC confirmed that transmission through sexual contact and infected blood exposure were the main causes of infection. Within two years, the CDC announced that AIDS was caused by the newly detected human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Shortly after, the FDA approved the first antibody test to detect traces of the virus in blood samples. 

In March of 1987, the FDA approved the first antiretroviral drug. However, AIDS remained the leading cause of death among Americans 25-44 in 1994. The urgency of the situation led to widespread recommendations on the use of antiretroviral drugs (PEP) to reduce infection in individuals exposed to HIV in healthcare settings. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatments wouldn’t be approved until 2012. 

Expanded health insurance access and new federal policies led to a significant decrease in HIV-related deaths throughout the 2010s. The past decade witnessed astounding progress in antiretroviral therapy research and brought more potent and safer ART drugs. 

Nowadays, extensive studies are being led worldwide and work closely with communities of people living with HIV/AIDS, bearing promising results and leading to an accelerated approval rate for new, life-changing drugs. Single-tablet daily combinations are available and have increased treatment success rates, translating into improved life expectancy.

How Do Antiretrovirals Work?

ART aims to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. This combination of medicines (commonly known as an HIV treatment regimen) prevents the virus from multiplying and reduces its viral load (the amount of HIV in the body). This gives the immune system an opportunity to recover, fight off infections and minimize the risk of transmission. Reducing an individual’s viral load to undetectable levels has become possible, eliminating the risk of transmission through sex. 

Taking ART after contact with an infected individual could save your life. If you believe you might have contracted HIV, please get in touch with your trusted healthcare provider without delay to begin antiretroviral therapy. 

Where to Go For Antiretroviral Therapy in Pennsylvania?

At Novus, we strongly believe everyone should have easy access to expert, compassionate care. Our team of medical specialists has years of experience providing affordable and confidential treatment options for all. 

With 5 locations across Pennsylvania, you can rest assured knowing there is a Novus center near you. Contact us today to request an appointment; we look forward to speaking with you! 


Debunking Myths About HIV

Debunking the Myths Around HIV: Get the Facts

An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States alone are currently living with HIV. However, false notions about this condition still abound and prevent many from getting tested or seeking treatment that could save their lives.

This guide covers some of the most common myths about HIV and helps to dispel the fear around it. Here’s what you need to know about common HIV misconceptions so you can protect yourself against it with facts instead of fear.

Myth #1: HIV Is Easily Contracted

HIV can only be transmitted if contact is made with bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or breast milk. In most cases, HIV is not spread by casual contact like shaking hands or hugging.

Myth #2: Condoms Aren’t Effective at Preventing HIV

The most common way for someone to contract HIV is by having unprotected sex with someone who is living with it. Using condoms has proven highly effective at preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. To increase the safety of these contraceptives and prevent them from breaking or slipping, we recommend you use water or silicone-based lubricants.

Myth #3: An Undetectable Viral Load Means No Transmission of HIV

While it is true that an undetectable viral load means you will not sexually transmit HIV to your partner(s), there is still not enough data to determine whether there is a risk of HIV transmission through shared needles, syringes or other drug injection paraphernalia.  

Moreover, being undetectable doesn’t make you immune to STDs; we therefore strongly encourage the use of condoms as added protection during sexual activity. 

Myth #4: People Living with HIV Shouldn’t Have Children

It’s true that children born to a mother with HIV who don’t get treatment may contract the virus. However, if mother and infant are treated properly, the chances of the child getting HIV are less than 2%!

Myth #5: Being on Antiretrovirals Makes Sexual Relationships Risky for Others

In order for someone to be infected with HIV, they need to come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the virus. This includes blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. Individuals who take antiretrovirals as prescribed can reduce their viral load (the amount of HIV in their body) to very low levels and become undetectable, meaning they will not transmit HIV to their sex partners. 

Moreover, the proper use of prophylactic methods can significantly lower the risk of contracting HIV. Regular testing is another great way to ensure you are doing everything under your control to keep yourself and your partners safe.  

Myth #6: You Don’t Have To Take PrEP Every Day

In order to work effectively, PrEP must be taken daily, as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Using PrEP in combination with condoms will ensure you are taking all the necessary measures to protect yourself not only from HIV but also from other STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhea. 

Consider setting up daily reminders on your phone to make sure you take all your doses. In addition, ask your pharmacy if you can opt for auto refills so that you never run out of PrEP.

Visit One of Our PA Locations For Comprehensive STD & HIV Testing Services

If you think you might have contracted HIV, please see a health professional immediately so they can test and provide treatment. At Novus, our team is dedicated to providing specialized care for every person who visits us; we are experts at what we do, and it shows in the personalized and compassionate services we provide.

Contact us today to request an appointment at one of our five Pennsylvania locations; we look forward to meeting you.