The treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease depends on the stage of the disease and any concomitant opportunistic infections.
In general, the goal of treatment is to prevent the immune system from deteriorating to the point that opportunistic infections become more likely. Immune reconstitution syndrome is also less likely in patients whose immune systems are weakened to this point.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is the principal method for preventing immune deterioration. In addition, prophylaxis for specific opportunistic infections is indicated in particular cases.
Successful long-term HAART results in a gradual recovery of CD4 T-cell numbers and an improvement of immune responses and T-cell repertoire (previously lost antigen responses may be restored).
The peripheral T-cell counts initially surge after therapy is initiated, but this represents redistribution of activated T cells from the viral replication centers in the lymph nodes rather than a true increase in total-body CD4 T-cell counts.