What Are Some Tips to Help You Take Your HIV Medication Every Day?
HIV treatment involves taking HIV medication every day, exactly as prescribed to lower the amount of HIV in your blood. Keeping the amount of the virus in your blood very low—so low that a test can’t detect it (called an undetectable viral load)—is the best thing you can do to stay healthy. There is also a prevention benefit: people living with HIV who take HIV medication daily as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
Here are some tips that may help you take every dose of your HIV medication, every day:
- Follow your treatment plan exactly as your health care provider has prescribed. HIV medication should be taken at specific times of the day, with or without certain kinds of food. If you have questions about when and how to take your medication, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist.
- Create a routine. Add taking your medication to things you already do each day. For example, if your medical provider prescribes taking your medication every morning with food, make it a habit to take it at breakfast.
- Try a weekly or monthly pill box with compartments for each day of the week to help you remember whether or not you took your medicine that day.
- Set an alarm on your clock, watch, or phone for the time you take your HIV medication.
- Keep a daily log or use a calendar to keep track of the days you have taken your HIV medication.
- Download a free app from the Internet to your computer or on your smartphone that can help remind you when it’s time to take your HIV medication. Search for “reminder apps,” and you will find many choices.
- Set up automatic refills at your pharmacy. Your medicine will be ready when you need it, and you won’t run out.
- Ask a family member or friend to encourage you and give you a daily phone call, text, or email to remind to take your HIV medication.
- Continue to see your health care provider regularly. Regular medical visits are important to monitor the amount of virus in your blood to make sure it stays undetectable, and to receive other medical support. Use these visits to talk openly to your provider about any help you might need sticking to your treatment plan.
What Are Some Challenges You Might Face Taking Your HIV Medication Every Day?
Taking medication every day can be difficult. That is why it is important to understand some of the challenges you may face and to think through how you might address them before they happen. For example, remembering when to take your medication can be complicated. Some medication regimens involve taking several pills every day—with or without food—or before or after other medications. Making a schedule of when and how to take your medicines can be helpful. Or ask your health care provider about the availability of multiple drugs combined into one pill.
Other factors can make it difficult to take your HIV medications every day, including:
- Problems taking medications, such as trouble swallowing pills, can make staying on treatment challenging. Your health care provider can offer tips and ideas for addressing these problems.
- Side effects from medications, for example, nausea or diarrhea, can make a person not want to take them. Talk to your health care provider. There are medicines or other support, like nutritional counseling to make sure you are getting important nutrients, which can help with the most common side effects. But don’t give up. Work with your health care provider to find a treatment that works for you.
- A busy schedule. Work or travel away from home can make it easy to forget to take pills. Planning ahead can help. Or, it may be possible to keep extra medicines at work or in your car for the times that you forget to take them at home. But make sure you talk to your health care provider—some medications are affected by extreme temperatures, and it is not always possible to keep medications at work.
- Being sick or depressed. How you feel mentally and physically can affect your willingness to stick to your HIV medications. Again, your health care provider is an important source of information to help with your mental health needs.
- Alcohol or drug use. If substance use is interfering with your ability to keep yourself healthy, it may be time to seek help to quit or better manage it.
- Treatment fatigue. Some people find that taking their HIV medications becomes harder over time. Every time you see your health care provider, make it a point to talk about staying adherent to your medications.
Your health care provider will help you identify barriers to keeping up with your HIV medication regimen and ways to address those barriers. Understanding issues that can make keeping up with your HIV medication regimen difficult will help you and your health care provider select the best treatment for you.
Tell your health care provider right away if you’re having taking your HIV medication every day. Together you can identify the reasons why you’re skipping medications and make a plan to address those reasons. Joining a peer support group of others taking HIV medication, or enlisting the support of family and friends, can also help you.