Antiretroviral Therapy

WHO estimates suggest that there are over 13 million injecting drug users worldwide (Aceijas 2004) and that globally, 5-10% of all new HIV infections can be attributed to injecting drug use (UNAIDS 2004).
HIV prevalence among injecting drug users has risen from 12% to 60-70% in just a few years (Grassly et al. 2003; De la Fuente et al. 2003).

Access To Antiretroviral Treatment
Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy offers an opportunity to improve the prognosis and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS. For HIV-positive injecting drug users, ARV therapy may be an incentive to make contact with healthcare services, which facilitate prevention, HIV testing, and counselling, as well as AIDS care, support, and treatment. It is also an entry point for the treatment of drug use and other co-morbidities such as tuberculosis (TB), HBV and HCV.

What is an ART?
The management of HIV/AIDS typically includes the use of antiretroviral drugs which are medications for the treatment of infection by retroviruses, primarily HIV. Antiretroviral drugs are broadly classified by the phase of the retrovirus life-cycle that the drug inhibits. Different antiretroviral drugs restrain the growth and reproduction of HIV. When several such drugs, typically three or four, are taken in combination, the approach is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART.
HAART decreases the amount of HIV and rebuilds the immune system. The American National Institutes of Health and other organisations recommend offering antiretroviral treatment to all patients with AIDS. Because of the complexity of selecting and following a regimen, the severity of the side-effects, and the importance of compliance to prevent viral resistance, such organisations emphasise the importance of involving patients in therapy choices and recommend analysing the risks and the potential benefits to patients with low viral loads.