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HIV and AIDS--Medicines to Help You

Young woman reading booklet on HIV Medicines

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Every year, thousands of women are infected with HIV. There is hope. There are drugs that can treat HIV and help people live longer.

Use this booklet to help you talk to yourhealthcare provider about the medicines you are taking. This booklet provides some basic facts about the anti-HIV medicines that have been approved by the FDA.

Helpful Tips

Types of HIV Drugs


Quick Facts

There is a lot you need to know about HIV. Read these quick facts before you talk with your healthcare provider about your HIV treatment.

  • HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
  • HIV makes it hard for your body to fight off sickness. There are cells in your blood called "CD4 cells" or "T cells". These cells help protect your body from disease. HIV kills these cells.
  • There are medicines that you can take to slow the build up of HIV and increase the CD4 cells in your body. These medicines do not cure HIV. You can still give the disease to someone else.
  • The medicines used to treat HIV are called "antiretroviral treatment' or ART. There are different kinds of ART medicines.
  • People with HIV may need to take 3 or more different medicines every day. You and your doctor will decide which ones are right for you.
  • It is important that you take your HIV medicines every day. Do not stop taking your medicines without first talking to your doctor. Over time, you can get very sick if you do not take your medicines.
  • A pregnant woman with HIV can take medicine to lower the chance of giving her baby HIV. Some anti-HIV medicines should not be taken during pregnancy because they can cause birth defects.

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Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Ask your doctor to tell you what you should know about your HIV medicines.

  • What drugs am I taking?
  • When should I take each drug?
  • Should I take my medicines with food?
  • What medicines or herbs (like St. John's Wort) can affect my HIV medicines?
  • How should I store my HIV medicines? What about when I am away from home or go out of town?
  • What are the side effects for the drugs I am taking?
  • What do I do if I start having bad side effects?

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Risks and Side Effects

HIV medicines can sometimes cause side effects. Some side effects happen for a short time. Other side effects can cause long term health problems. Tell your doctor about any side effects you are having. Do not stop taking your medicine without first talking to your doctor. Your doctor may tell you tips to help you cope with the side effects. The doctor may also decide to have you take different drugs.

  • This booklet does not give the specific side effects or warnings for each HIV drug.
  • Talk to your doctor about the side effects and warnings for the medicines you take.
  • Check the FDA Web site to find more HIV drug information.

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My Medicine Schedule

It is important that you take your HIV medicines exactly as your doctor tells you. The medicines may not work correctly if you skip a pill and do not adhere to your schedule. Over time, you can get very sick if you do not take your medicines as directed. Your HIV may become resistant to your medicines. The medicines will stop working and more HIV will start to build up in your body.

Here are some tips to help you remember when to take your HIV medicines.

  • Use a schedule or planner.
  • Set the alarm on your watch or phone.
  • Use a pillbox to help you organize your pills.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you.

Chart to help you remember when to take your HIV medicine

Time Drug Name Dose
(How many Pills)
Notes
6:30 XXX (example) 1 Pill Take with food
       
       
       
       
       

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Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)

Brand Name Other Names
Combivir* lamivudine and zidovudine
Emtriva emtricitabine
FTC
Epivir lamivudine
3TC
Epzicom* abacavir and lamivudine
Retrovir zidovudine, AZT, azidothymidine, ZDV
Trizivir* abacavir, zidovudine and lamivudine
Truvada* tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine
Videx didanosine , ddl, dideoxyinosine
Videx EC enteric coated didanosine
Viread tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, TDF
Zerit stavudine
d4T
Ziagen abacavir, sulfate, ABC

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

* Combivir, Epizicom, Trizivir, and Truvad are combination drugs. See the Combination Drugs section for more information.

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

This guide does not give the specific side effects or warnings for each drug. Check the drug label and ask your doctor for the side effects and warnings for the HIV medicines you are taking.

Important Tips

  • Do not breastfeed while taking these medicines.
  • These medicines may cause lactic acidosis (too much acid in the blood).
  • These medicines may cause serious liver or pancreas problems.
  • People with liver problems including hepatitis and people with kidney problems should talk to their doctor before taking these medicines.
  • In some cases, people taking HIV medicines notice changes in body fat (like extra fat in the neck or upper back or loss of fat in the face or arms).

Warning Signs

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs:

  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling very weak or tired
  • Problems Breathing
  • Weakness in arms and legs
  • Tingling, numbness, or pain in feet or hands
  • Juandice (Skin or eyes look yellow)
  • Pain in the upper or lower stomach area

Common Side Effects

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Upset stomach/ Mild nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Do not feel like eating

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Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)

Brand Name Other Names
Edurant rilpivirine
Intelence etravirine
Rescriptor delavirdine
DLV
Sustiva efavirenz
EFV
Viramune nevirapine
NVP
Viramune XR
(extended release)
nevirapine
NVP

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

This guide does not give the specific side effects or warnings for each drug. Check the drug label and ask your doctor for the side effects and warnings for the HIV medicines you are taking.

Important Tips

  • Do not breastfeed while taking these medicines.
  • Women with CD4 counts higher than 250 should talk to their doctor about the risks of taking Viramune (nevirapine).
  • These medicines may cause serious liver problems or severe skin rashes.
  • People with liver problems including hepatitis and people with kidney problems should talk to their doctor before taking these medicines.
  • In some cases, people taking HIV medicines notice changes in body fat (like extra fat in the neck or upper back or loss of fat in the face or arms).

Warning Signs

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling tired
  • Do not feel like eating
  • Dark urine (looks like tea)
  • Pale stools
  • Jaundice (skin or eyes look yellow)
  • Pain, aches, or sensitivity to touch on right side below your ribs

Also call your doctor right away if you have a severe rash along with blisters, swelling, pink eye, fever, muscle/ joint pain, or mouth sores.

Common Side Effects

  • Skin rash
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Depression/ changes in your mood
  • Problems concentrating
  • Feeling tired
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Strange dreams

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Protease Inhibitors

Brand Name Other Names
Aptivus tipranavir
TPV
Crixivan indinavir
IDV, MK-639
Invirase saquinavir mesylate
SQV
Kaletra* lopinavir and ritonavir
LPV/RTV
Lexiva fosamprenavir calcium
FOS-APV
Norvir ritonavir
RTV

Prezista

darunavir
Reyataz atazanavir sulfate
ATV
Viracept nelfinavir mesylate
NFV

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

* Kaletra is a combination drug. See the Combination Drugs section for more information.

Protease Inhibitors

This guide does not give the specific side effects or warnings for each drug. Check the drug label and ask your doctor for the side effects and warnings for the HIV medicines you are taking.

Important Tips

  • Do not breastfeed while taking these medicines.
  • These medicines may affect your birth control pills or patch. You may need to use another birth control method.
  • Tell your doctor about all medicines that you are taking. Protease Inhibitors may cause serious health problems or death if mixed with other medicines.
  • These medicines may cause serious liver problems.
  • These medicines may cause increased bleeding in people with hemophilia.
  • These medicines may make diabetes worse or cause people to get diabetes.
  • Some people taking Protease Inhibitors notice large increases in their cholesterol (triglycerides).
  • In some cases, people taking HIV medicines notice changes in body fat (like extra fat in the neck or upper back or loss of fat in the face or arms).

Warning Signs

Call your doctor if you have any of these signs:

  • Serious skin rash
  • Feeling very weak or tired
  • Unusual muscle pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting

Common Side Effects

  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea (Upset Stomach)
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling Tired
  • Headache

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Integrase Inhibitors

Brand Name Other Name
Isentress raltegravir
Tivicay dolutegravir

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

  • Other Integrase Inhibitors

Elvitegravir - This medicine is only available as a part of a fixed dose combination drug. See the Combination Drugs section for more information.

Integrase Inhibitors

This guide does not give all of the specific side effects or warnings for each drug. Check the drug label and ask your doctor for the side effects and warnings for the HIV medicines you are taking.

Important Tips

  • Before you take these medicines, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • Do not breastfeed while taking these medicines.
  • Tell your doctor about all of the medicines that you are taking. Integrase Inhibitors may cause serious health problems or even death if mixed with other medicines.
  • In some cases, people taking HIV medicines notice changes in body fat (like extra fat in the neck or upper back or loss of fat in the face or arms).

Serious Side Effects

  • Serious skin rash
  • Liver Problems

Common Side Effects

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Feeling Tired
  • Headache
  • Trouble Sleeping

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Fusion Inhibitors

Brand Name Other Names
Fuzeon
This medicine is a shot.
enfuvirtide T-20

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

Fusion Inhibitors

This guide does not give the specific side effects or warnings for each drug. Check the drug label and ask your doctor for the side effects and warnings for the HIV medicines you are taking.

Important Tips

  • Do not breastfeed while taking Fuzeon (enfuvirtide).
  • People taking Fuzeon (enfuvirtide) with other HIV medicines may be more likely to get pneumonia. Tell your doctor if you have a cough, fever, or trouble breathing.
  • In some cases, people taking HIV medicines notice changes in body fat (like extra fat in the neck or upper back or loss of fat in the face or arms).

Warning Signs

Fuzeon may cause serious allergic reactions. Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs.

  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever with vomiting and a skin rash
  • Blood in urine
  • Swelling of the feet

Common Side Effects

  • Itching, redness, pain, bumps or swelling where the shot is given
  • Pain and numbness in feet or legs
  • Problems sleeping
  • Depression
  • Weakness or loss of strength
  • Muscle pain
  • Constipation

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CCR5 Antagonists

Brand Name Other Name
Selzentry Maraviroc

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

CCR5 Antagonists

This guide does not give all of the specific side effects or warnings for each drug. Check the drug label and ask your doctor for the side effects and warnings for the HIV medicines you are taking.

Important Tips

  • Do not breastfeed while taking Selzentry (maraviroc).
  • People with liver problems including Hepatitis B or C should talk to their doctor before taking Selzentry (maraviroc).
  • People with kidney problems or heart problems should talk to their doctor before taking Selzentry (maraviroc).
  • Tell your doctor if you are taking high blood pressure medicines or if you have low blood pressure.
  • Do not drive a car or use heavy machinery if you feel dizzy while taking Selzentry (maraviroc).
  • In some cases, people taking HIV medicines notice changes in body fat (like extra fat in the neck or upper back or loss of fat in the face or arms).

Warning Signs

Selzentry may cause serious liver problems. Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs:

  • Itchy rash on your body
  • Skin or eyes look yellow
  • Dark urine (looks like tea)
  • Vomiting and stomach pain

You should also see your doctor right away if you have any of these signs:

  • Nausea
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue

Common Side Effects

  • Cough
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Muscle and Joint Pain
  • Colds
  • Stomach Pain
  • Dizziness

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Combination Drugs

Combination drugs include two or more different HIV medicines in one pill. There are different types of combination HIV drugs.

Single Tablet Regimen (You only take 1 pill each day.)

Brand Name Other Names
Atripla efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate
Complera emtricitabine, rilpivirine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate
Stribild elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine tenofovir disoproxil fumarate

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

Fixed-Dose Combination (You take these combination drugs along with other HIV drugs.)

Brand Name Other Names
Combivir lamivudine and zidovudine
Epizicom abacavir and lamivudine
Kaletra lopinavir and ritonavir
Trizivir abacavir, zidovudine, and lamivudine
Truvada tenofovir and emtricitabine

For more information about the risks and side effects for each drug, check Drugs@FDA.

Combination Drugs

Check the drug label and talk to your doctor about the side effects and warnings for the combination HIV drugs you are taking.

  • Do not breastfeed while taking these medicines.
  • Women should not get pregnant while taking Atripla.

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Other FDA-approved HIV Drugs

These drugs are only available as part of a fixed dose combination drug.

  • cobicistat - CYP3A Inhibitor
  • elvitegravir - Integrase Inhibitor

Sign Up for a Pregnancy Registry

Pregnancy exposure registries are research studies that collect information from women who take prescription medicines or vaccines during pregnancy. Pregnancy registries can help women and their doctors learn more about how HIV medicines affect women during pregnancy.

The FDA does not run pregnancy registry studies, but FDA keeps a list of all registries. Learn more about the registry for HIV medicines at:

www.fda.gov/pregnancyregistries

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HIV/AIDS Resources

Page Last Updated: 12/18/2014
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