A Project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
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Fact Sheet Number 403
WHAT IS ANTIRETROVIRAL THERAPY (ART)?
WHAT IS ART?
ART means treating retroviral infections like
HIV with drugs. The drugs do not kill the
virus. However, they slow down the growth
of the virus. When the virus is slowed down,
so is HIV disease. Antiretroviral drugs are
referred to as ARV. ARV therapy is referred
to as ART.
WHAT IS THE HIV LIFE CYCLE?
There are several steps in the HIV life cycle.
(See Fact Sheet 400 for a diagram.)
1. Free virus circulates in the bloodstream.
2. HIV attaches to a cell.
3. HIV empties its contents into the cell
(infects the cell).
4. The HIV genetic code (RNA)
into DNA by
5. The HIV DNA is built into the infected
cell’s DNA by the integrase enzyme.
6. When the infected cell reproduces, it
activates the HIV DNA, which makes the
raw material for new HIV viruses.
7. Packets of material for a new virus
8. The immature virus pushes out of the
infected cell in a process called “budding.”
9. The immature virus breaks free of the
10. The new virus matures: raw materials
are cut by the protease enzyme and
assembled into a functioning virus.
APPROVED ARV DRUGS
Each type, or “class”, of ARV drugs attacks
HIV in a different way. The first class of
anti-HIV drugs was the nucleoside reverse
“nukes”. These drugs block Step 4, where
the HIV genetic material is converted from
RNA into DNA. The following drugs in this
class are used:
• AZT (ZDV, zidovudine, Retrovir)
• ddI (didanosine, Videx)
• d4T (stavudine, Zerit)
• 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir)
• Abacavir (Ziagen)
• Tenofovir (Viread) (a nucleotide)
• Combivir (AZT/3TC combination)