There is no cure for the AIDS virus, it is terminal but medical advancements have created highly active antiretroviral therapy drugs that fight the HIV infection and its associated infections. The first step in treatment of AIDS is early detection. AIDS is diagnosed through three types of blood tests; the antibody tests, RNA tests, or a combination of the two methods. The Western blot is the confirmatory test to give a definitive diagnosis of AIDS. AIDS has a “window period” that can last from six weeks to three months after initial infection in which the immune system may not have enough antibodies to the virus to test positive for AIDS. During this time the person is still infected with AIDS and able to transmit the disease to others therefore it is highly recommended that repeat testing be performed within three months after a negative AIDS antibody test.
Routine treatment for AIDS is a combination therapy of several different antiretroviral therapy drugs that are aimed at stopping the replication of AIDS in the blood allowing the immune system to repair itself and recover from damage done by the AIDS virus. Antiretroviral therapies can lower the AIDS titer in the blood and improve the quality of life of those infected with AIDS, by keeping the infection fighting T4 cells at a higher level, thus prolonging life and making them less susceptible to opportunistic infections.
Mutation in the AIDS virus has caused the emergence of several strains of the virus some of which are resistant to traditional antiretroviral medications. Additional genetic testing can be performed on a strain of AIDS to determine the proper combination of drugs necessary to combat the replication if the virus within a person and slows the rate in which a virus can become resistant to a single medication by introducing multiple drugs at a time. While antiretroviral drugs are effective at combating AIDS, the combinations (often referred to as cocktails) have side effects of their own that can sometimes be severe. Common side effects include fat collection in areas of the back and abdomen, overall feelings of malaise, headaches, weakness, and nausea. Due to various viral strains of AIDS and the side effects of treatments AIDS treatment is routinely introduced in a manner known as first and second line therapy. The first line of treatment is an initial combination of drugs in which a person’s tolerance and the effect on the AIDS virus is closely monitored. If the virus proves resistant to the first line of treatment of the side effects are severe then the second line may be introduced. The second line of treatment can include a new combination of medications in an effort to find a successful treatment regimen.