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Viracept may be one of the antiviral drugs your doctor will prescribe if you have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to reduce your viral load. Nelfinavir Mesylate, the active ingredient of Viracept acts as a protein inhibitor (PI). Viracept is not usually prescribed as a first-line treatment as part of your HIV regimen, but if it is found that you have developed a resistance to any of your current HIV meds, your doctor may change one of the drugs to Viracept.
HIV starts by infecting a CD4 cell in order to copy its own viral genetic code into the CD4 cell’s DNA. CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that your body needs to identify and destroy bacteria and viruses. Your infected CD4 cells are reprogrammed to make new HIV genetic material and proteins to thrive. To do this, the HIV proteins are cut up by the virus’s protein-cutting enzyme called protease in order to produce new HIV particles. When taken as directed, Viracept blocks this protease enzyme so the HIV is unable to make new viruses. This lowers your viral load.
Without treatment, the HIV virus will destroy your immune system as the number of CD4 cells in your body dwindle. This usually leaves you vulnerable to many other infections besides HIV because your body cannot defend itself properly. Your viral load should be tested frequently while taking Viracept and the other HIV drugs prescribed so your doctor can determine if the regimen you are on is working for you. If the viral load begins to increase, it’s possible the virus has become resistant to one or more of the HIV drugs you are taking.
There is no cure for HIV, but Viracept and the two or more other drugs you are taking can help prevent the virus from becoming acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Regular testing and the proper drugs can minimize your symptoms and allow you a brighter outlook so you can prevent your condition from progressing to AIDS. Viracept is prescribed for those as young as two years old.
Tell your doctor about other medical conditions or allergies you have and list any OTC or Rx drugs you are taking, including herbal and vitamin supplements. This will help you avoid unnecessary and possibly dangerous side effects from drug interactions with Viracept. Inform your doctor right away if you are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breast feeding before you take Viracept as it may cause harm to your unborn or nursing baby. HIV can also be transmitted through child birth and has been found present in breast milk.
Viracept can decrease the efficacy of oral contraceptives so it is advised that a barrier protection method, such as a condom, be used as well. Taking Viracept and other HIV medications does not protect you or your partner/spouse from transmitting the virus or becoming infected. If you have been exposed to HIV, preventative treatment should be started immediately and continued for at least 28 days. After starting your HIV regimen with Viracept, you may exhibit signs of a new infection as your immune system adjusts to the medications and gains some strength.