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Kaposi Sarcoma: Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)

What is antiretroviral therapy (ART)?

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of medicines to control infections of certain types of viruses, called retroviruses. This treatment is important if you are infected with the HIV. This is the retrovirus that causes AIDS. Treatment with highly-active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) can often keep HIV under control. This can help keep your immune system strong. It can lower your risk for other kinds of infection.

When might ART be used in people with Kaposi sarcoma?

If you are HIV-positive and have AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma (KS), it's important to treat the HIV infection to help keep it under control. KS is caused by infection with a virus called human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8). It is also known as the Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV).

Many people with KSHV do not develop KS. But a weakened immune system because of HIV infection can allow KSHV to grow. This can lead to KS. Keeping HIV infection under control (and your immune system strong) can help keep the KSHV under control too.

In people with KS, HAART can often cause KS lesions to shrink or not get worse without any other treatments. KS lesions tend to get worse if you have an active infection. HAART can help strengthen your immune system. This can help keep you from getting another virus or bacterial infection.

If the KS is more advanced, HAART may be used along with chemotherapy. 

How is ART given?

HAART is often given as a combination of a few medicines. They're taken as pills every day. Many different combinations of medicines can be used.

Working with your healthcare provider

HAART can sometimes have side effects. The medicines may also interact with any other medicines you're taking. Make sure your healthcare providers know all of the medicines you're taking. Write your medicines down, and ask your healthcare team how they work and what side effects they might have.

Talk with your healthcare providers about what side effects to look for and when to call them. Make sure you know what number to call with questions. Ask if there is a different number for evenings and weekends.

It may be helpful to keep a diary of your side effects. A written list will make it easier for you to remember your questions when you go to your appointments. It will also make it easier for you to work with your healthcare team to make a plan to manage your side effects.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2018
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