Note: this site last updated in 2006
An article from "The Molecules of HIV" (c) Dan Stowell
The chemical 3'-azido,3'-deoxythymidine, also known as zidovudine, also known as AZT, is the first HIV antiretroviral to have been licensed for clinical use. It works by inhibiting the action of HIV reverse transcriptase.
Unfortunately, zidovudine has some toxic effects, which might explain why it isn't the "magic bullet" we'd like. Also, as soon as you treat a patient with an antiretroviral, resistant strains of HIV emerge (partly because of HIV's high mutation rate). (Using a selection of antiretrovirals at once reduces the chance of resistant strains evolving. This is the idea behind HAART.)