Normal antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of a mixture of antiretroviral drugs (ARV) to improve the suppression of the HIV virus and to stop its progression. ART also stops HIV transmission from moving forward. Huge reductions in death rates and infections were observed when use is made of a potent ARV regimen, especially in early stages of the disease. WHO recommends ART for all HIV-patients as soon as possible after diagnosis without any CD4 count restrictions. As part of systematic prevention, it also suggests providing pre-exposure prophylaxis to people at serious risk of HIV infection as an additional option of prevention. What is truly a surprise is the use of anti-retroviral drugs to treat COVID-19.

Will anti-retroviral drugs help?

Drugs created for treating HIV are used to treat other viral diseases including hepatitis B. It also demonstrated major clinical gain in treating emerging diseases such as serious acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, caused by a coronavirus close to that causing COVID-19. Researchers are currently researching antiretrovirals used to treat HIV, such as lopinavir, ritonavir, and another protease inhibitor called darunavir, in the race to find successful drugs or a cure for COVID-19. There is anecdotal evidence that anti-HIV drugs are capable of being successful. A Chinese coronavirus patient, tested negative for the virus within two days, after being given lopinavir and ritonavir  by Thai physicians. In Japan, a woman from Wuhan, China, was administered with only the two HIV medications, and her fever subsidized within five days of hospital admission. And a March 2020 study in the JAMA journal showed that three out of five patients had recovered after being treated with the same two medicines.

The use of anti-retroviral drugs to treat COVID-19 in India

Recently, India’s Drug Controller General authorized HIV anti-retroviral drugs for use in treating COVID-19 in the event of a public health emergency. Also recently, the Department of Pharmaceuticals called pharmaceutical companies meeting to store anti-retroviral drugs in case the peak numbers and population transmission are seen in India. While there are reports encouraging the use of anti-retroviral drugs to treat COVID-19, public health professionals suggest that more testing is required before concluding that HIV drugs can be used to treat the COVID-19 outbreak effectively.