Treatment adherence means taking the correct dose of your medications every time, exactly as prescribed by your health care provider or recommended by your pharmacist. To successfully halt HIV replication and keep viral load suppressed, HIV meds need to be maintained at high enough levels in the blood, 24 hours a day, every day. If the drug levels become too low, drug resistance may occur.
HIV drug resistance can cause your meds to stop working properly and may limit future treatment options. It is also possible to transmit drug-resistant HIV to other people, making it harder for them to treat their own infection.
When selecting a new HIV medication or starting meds for the first time, you may want to look at your lifestyle to see if there are any potential adherence obstacles. Here is a list of questions for you to consider when discussing adherence and making treatment decisions with your health care provider:
Today there are several once-daily fixed-dose regimens contained in one pill. While the option of only taking one pill a day sounds appealing, these regimens may not allow for a missed dose because the doses are further apart than twice-daily doses. Missing a once-daily dosed pill could also cause drug resistance.
- Does your daily schedule change a lot?
- What is your typical eating schedule each day?
- Do you have a difficult time swallowing pills?
- Are you taking other medications?
- What side effects can you tolerate?
- What happens if you miss a dose?
Treatment adherence can affect anyone. Don't feel guilty about talking to your doctor about any difficulty you may have with taking your medications on time. There are certain situations that have been found to affect adherence.
Attitude: People who feel most strongly that their medication is doing them good typically have an easier time adhering to their regimens. Understanding how and why the medications work can help with adherence.
Mood: People who are depressed have a harder time adhering to HIV drug regimens than people who are not depressed. If you suspect you are depressed, talk to you health care provider.
Chaos: The amount of chaos in your life, and the stress it creates, can generate adherence problems. Chaos can include more than just an unpredictable and overwhelming schedule of activities. Try to identify and lower the chaos in your life. Your health care provider or case manager may be able to help.
Primary Caregiver: The needs and concerns of the people you're caring for can be overwhelming and become your primary focus. It's important to remember that your health must come first; you can't care for others if you don't take care of yourself.
Talk to your health care provider if you need help addressing any adherence challenges. Finding other people in your situation can also help. Join a support group or connect with other HIV-positive people in the Forums.