Two classes of medications are used to treat HIV itself. The first is composed of zidovudine (AZT), didanosine (ddl), zalcitabine (ddC), stavudine (D4T), and lamivudine (3TC), all of them antiretroviral medications that inhibit HIV’s ability to replicate itself. The second group (saquinavir, indinavir, and retonivir) are the protease inhibitors, which also inhibit the replication of HIV although they affect a different step in the process. Other new drugs currently being tested will soon add to the available choices. All of the drugs are expensive, must be taken exactly as prescribed to decrease the risk of resistance, and have potentially serious side effects.
Because many of these medications are new, and because clinical trials are currently under way to evaluate how best to use them, the recommendations for their use are frequently changing. Therefore, the following guidelines are just that—guidelines. I will not provide specific dosages, because some of these would probably have changed even before this book is published. The decision as to which medications to use (if any at all), must be arrived at after discussions between the patient and the health care provider.