The Toll of Protease Inhibitors for HIVinfected People
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The Toll of Protease Inhibitors for HIVinfected People

the effects of Ritonavir are not for the light-hearted. From the time you start Ritonavir, to the time you stop taking it, the most common side-effect is chronic diarrhea

The release of HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy) in 1998 brought about a whole new list of medications, shedding a light of hope upon people infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). New medications known as "Protease Inhibitors" came about that promised to help people living with HIV/AIDS to living a longer, more natural life. A very common Protease Inhibitor is Ritonavir. It is found in brand named medications Norvir and Kaletra. Ritonavir is a very unique type of Protease Inhibitor. After the release of this medication in 1996, Ritonavir proved to be a very weak form of treatment. Medical specialists, therefore began treatment by combining Ritonavir with other Protease Inhibitors, NNRTI's, and/or NRTI's. What they found was that Ritonavir actually boosted the levels and strength of the other medications. Thus, allowing the patient to take lower doses less frequently. As history teaches us, however, with each advance in science, not everything we discover can be all we hoped for.

The average life expectancy in 1996 for somebody who was HIV+ was 10½ years. In 2005, it was 22½ years. People who were originally intended to be taking Ritonavir for a maximum of 10 years, were suddenly taking this medication for 15....20...25 years! And the effects of Ritonavir are not for the light-hearted. From the time you start Ritonavir, to the time you stop taking it, the most common side-effect is chronic diarrhea. Several patient's elected to stop treatment because the symptoms had become so severe. Many even develop problems controlling their bowels.

Another effect of Ritonavir, that is more long-term, is lypodystrophy of the face and back. Wrinkles develop around the cheek-bone and mouth as the fat redistributes throughout the facial strucure. A fat-formed mass often develops on the patient's upper back, due to this same process. Lypodystrophy due to Ritonavir can also occur in the legs, leaving some legs thin and skinny in some parts, and bulky in another. It all depends on how your body reacts over time.

Not only does this medication take a toll on your body physically, but long-term use of this medication can also lead to an elavated chance of developing unhealthy levels of cholesterol, hypertension, and also change the levels of triglicerides in body. Many people also have trouble taking this medication due to the fact that it has many unsafe drug interactions with dozens of different medications.

All-in-all, Ritonavir was an amazing breakthrough in HIV/AIDS treatment. It has undoubtebly lengthened the lives of hundreds, possibly even thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS. The side-effects are certainly noteable, and it something to be careful of. If you were recently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, or are currently taking medication for HIV treatment, talk to your doctor or pharmacist on treatment that will be most beneficial to you. And most importantly - do your research!

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