HIV Drug Resistance
March 29, 2019
What Is Hiv Drug Resistance?
Once a person has HIV, the virus begins to multiply in the body. As HIV multiplies, it sometimes changes form (mutates). Some HIV mutations that develop while a person is taking HIV medicines can lead to drug-resistant strains of HIV.
Once drug resistance develops, HIV medicines that previously controlled the person's HIV are no longer effective. In other words, the HIV medicines can't prevent the drug-resistant HIV from multiplying. Drug resistance can cause HIV treatment to fail.
Drug-resistant HIV can spread from person to person (called transmitted resistance). People initially infected with drug-resistant HIV have drug resistance to one or more HIV medicines even before they start taking HIV medicines.
How Does Poor Medication Adherence Increase the Risk of Drug Resistance?
Medication adherence means taking HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed. HIV medicines prevent HIV from multiplying. Skipping HIV medicines allows HIV to multiply, which increases the risk that the virus will mutate and produce drug-resistant HIV.
As a result of drug resistance, one or more HIV medicines in a person's HIV regimen may no longer be effective.
What Is Cross Resistance?
Cross resistance is when resistance to one HIV medicine causes resistance to other medicines in the same HIV drug class. (HIV medicines are grouped into drug classes according to how they fight HIV.) Because of cross resistance, a person's HIV may be resistant even to HIV medicines that the person has never taken. Cross resistance limits the number of HIV medicines available to include in an HIV regimen.
What Is Drug-Resistance Testing?
Drug-resistance testing is done to identify which, if any, HIV medicines won't be effective against a person's strain of HIV. Drug-resistance testing is done using a sample of blood.
Drug-resistance testing is done when a person first begins receiving care for HIV infection. Resistance testing should be done whether the person decides to start taking HIV medicines immediately or to delay treatment. If treatment is delayed, resistance testing may be repeated when HIV medicines are started.
Drug-resistance testing done before a person starts HIV medicines for the first time can show whether the person was initially infected with a drug-resistant strain of HIV. Drug-resistance testing results are used to decide which HIV medicines to include in a person's first HIV regimen.
After treatment is started, drug-resistance testing is repeated if viral load testing indicates that a person's HIV regimen isn't controlling the virus. If drug-resistance testing shows that the HIV regimen isn't effective because of drug resistance, the test results can be used to select a new HIV regimen.
Drug-resistance testing is also recommended for all pregnant women with HIV before starting HIV medicines and for pregnant women already taking HIV medicines who have detectable viral loads.
How Can a Person Taking HIV Medicines Reduce the Risk of Drug Resistance?
Adherence to an effective HIV treatment regimen reduces the risk of drug resistance.
Here are some tips on medication adherence for people living with HIV:
Where Can I Learn More About Drug Resistance?
This Fact Sheet Is Based on Information From the Following Sources:
[Note from TheBody.com: This article was created by AIDSinfo and was last updated by them on Jan. 28, 2019.]
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