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Types of antiretroviral drugs

There are six main types (‘classes’) of antiretroviral drugs: 

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), and nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NtRTIs), which target an HIV protein called reverse transcriptase. These are often all referred to as NRTIs.

This class of drugs forms the ‘backbone’ of a first-line HIV treatment combination and is usually taken in a pill that combines more than one drug.

Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), which also target reverse transcriptase, but in a different way to NRTIs and NtRTIs. 

Protease inhibitors (PIs), which target an HIV protein called protease. 

Entry inhibitors, which stop HIV from entering human cells. There are two types: fusion inhibitors and CCR5 inhibitors. CCR5 inhibitors won’t work in everyone and are not often used for first-line treatment. You would have a test to see if this type of treatment would be effective before starting on it.

Integrase inhibitors (INI), which target a protein in HIV called integrase, and stop the virus from integrating with the DNA of human cells. 

Each class of drug attacks HIV in a different way. Generally drugs from two (or sometimes three) classes are combined to ensure a powerful attack on HIV. Most people start HIV treatment on two NRTI drugs combined with either one NNRTI or one PI or one INI.

The drugs listed in this booklet are those licensed for use in the UK or the European Union, and which have been recommended for use in BHIVA’s HIV treatment guidelines. There may be occasions where other anti-HIV drugs, not covered here, are prescribed because of very unusual circumstances.

Anti-HIV drugs

Published October 2014

Last reviewed October 2014

Next review October 2017

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this booklet.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.