As the threat of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) persists to rise, effective drug treatments are required to treat the infected people. Even though combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) provides stable viral suppression, it is not devoid of undesirable side effects, especially in persons undergoing long-term treatment. The present therapy finds its limitations in the emergence of multidrug resistance and accordingly finding new drugs and novel targets is the need of the hour to treat the infected persons and further to attack HIV reservoirs in the body like brain, lymph nodes to achieve the ultimate goal of complete eradication of HIV and AIDS. Natural products such as plant-originated compounds and plant extracts have enormous potential to become drug leads with anti-HIV and neuroprotective activity. Accordingly, many research groups are exploring the biodiversity of the plant kingdom to find new and better anti-HIV drugs with novel mechanisms of action and for HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). The basic challenge that still persists is to develop viral replication-targeted therapy using novel anti-HIV compounds with new mode of action, accepted toxicity and less resistance profile. Against this backdrop, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested the need to evaluate ethno-medicines for the management of HIV/AIDS. Consequently, there is need to evaluate traditional medicine, particularly medicinal plants and other natural products that may yield effective and affordable therapeutic agents. Although there are a good number of reports on traditional uses of plants to treat various diseases, knowledge of herbal remedies used to manage HIV/AIDS and HAND are scanty, vague and not well documented. In this review, plant substances showing a promising action that is anti-HIV and HAND will be explored along with what they interact. Since some plant substances are also known to modulate several cellular factors which are also involved in the replication of HIV and hence their role as potential candidates will be discussed. HIV/AIDS being an exceptional epidemic, demands an exceptional approach and that forms very much focus for the current review.
Keywords: HIV; anti-HIV agents; natural products; neurocognitive disorders.