2 million people newly enrolled on antiretroviral treatment in 2013 – the largest ever annual increase.” – Word Health Organization. HIV/AIDS: Data and Statistics. 2014

During the recent ebola outbreak, many people likened the ebola virus to HIV. However, there are key differences between the two. The most notable are the HIV treatments made available in the 33 years since HIV was identified. Antiretroviral therapies have changed the course of HIV and the lives of the people who have it. Three types of antiretroviral therapies used to treat HIV are nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, entry/fusion inhibitors and protease inhibitors.

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors both work by preventing production of viral DNA through the enzyme reverse transcriptase. When this prevention occurs, the virus can no longer make copies of itself. The difference between these two types of inhibitors is in exactly how they work. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors affect the enyzyme directly, and nuceloside reverse transcriptase inhibitors affect the genetic material. Emtricitabine, etravirine and ripilvirine, are three examples of these types of antiretroviral therapies, according to UCSF’s HIV InSite.

Entry/fusion inhibitors, on the other hand, prevent HIV from penetrating cells. These inhibitors block receptor sites on CD4 cells and HIV cells, so the two cannot connect. Examples of entry/fusion inhibitors are enfuvirtide and maraviroc, according to AVERT.

A third type of antiretroviral therapy is that of protease inhibitors. These, as explained in their name, block the enzyme protease. This inhibition prevents long strings of HIV genetic material from being shortened and replicated. Examples of protease inhibitors are ritonavir, darunavir and tipranavir. The drawback to these medications is their foul taste.

For that, Orbis Biosciences has used its optimµmTM platform to develop an improved, taste-masked version of the protease inhibitor ritonavir. Like all antiretroviral therapies, ritonavir works best when combined with other drugs to prevent resistance. These therapies did not even exist 33 years ago, and already they have transformed the space of HIV. It’s our hope that in another 33 years, these life-changing therapies could be replaced by something better, the eradication of HIV and the need for treatment.