(Last updated 4/29/2015; last reviewed 4/29/2015)
Talking with your health care provider will help you understand why you’re starting HIV treatment and why medication adherence is important. Medication adherence means sticking firmly to an HIV regimen —taking HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed.
Your health care provider will explain that taking HIV medicines every day can protect your health and prevent your HIV infection from advancing to AIDS. The HIV medicines will also reduce your risk of passing HIV to another person during sex. Your health care provider will emphasize that adherence to an HIV regimen reduces the risk of drug resistance and treatment failure.
Information that you share with your health care provider will make it easier to select an HIV regimen that suits your needs. The information will also help you and your health care provider plan ahead for any issues that may make adherence difficult.
Tell your health care provider about other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Other medicines you take may interact with the HIV medicines in your HIV regimen. A drug interaction can reduce or increase the effect of a medicine or cause side effects.
Tell your health care provider about any issues that can make adherence difficult. Issues such as lack of health insurance or alcohol or drug use can make it hard to follow an HIV regimen. If needed, your health care provider can recommend resources to help you address any issues before you start treatment.
Describe your schedule at home and at work to your health care provider. Working together, you can arrange your HIV medication schedule to match your day-to-day routine.
Ask your health care provider for written instructions on how to follow your HIV regimen. The instructions should include the following details:
To maintain adherence over the long term, try some of the following strategies:
Don’t panic! Unless your health care provider tells you otherwise, take the medicine you missed as soon as you realize you skipped it. But if it’s almost time for the next dose of the medicine, don’t take the missed dose and just continue on your regular medication schedule. Don’t take a double dose of a medicine to make up for a missed dose.
Tell your health care provider if you’re having difficulty following your regimen. Don’t forget to mention any side effects you’re having. Side effects from HIV medicines are a major reason medication adherence can be difficult.
Let your health care provider know if your regimen is too complicated to follow. Your health care provider may simplify your regimen to include fewer HIV medicines or to reduce the number of times a day you need to take your HIV medicines.
Discuss any issues that are causing you to skip medicines. Your health care provider can recommend resources to help you deal with the issues.