Keeping Adherence in Mind
One of the things to consider while choosing a therapy is how easy it will be for you to be adherent for an indefinite amount of time.
Taking on complex, long-term treatment doesn’t feel natural to most people. However, this challenge is not unique to people with HIV.
Millions have learned to cope with diseases that require long-term management, including diabetes, mental illness and heart disease, among others.
Whether or not you feel you’re able to adhere to a new regimen may be one thing to consider — along with your lab results and overall general health — in deciding the right time to begin HIV therapy. Your readiness, or ability to commit to the demands of therapy, is an important consideration to discuss with your doctor.
Adhering to all of your HIV drugs is important because not taking them as prescribed every day will lead to inadequate levels of the drugs in your blood. This can result in many things, including no real therapeutic benefit, possible disease progression, development of resistance, and unnecessary side effects.
Giving careful thought to what benefits you hope to derive from treatment, how you’ll evaluate that benefit, and how you might manage side effects will be helpful.
Some people try a "dry run" before beginning therapy, like taking empty gel caps, or small candies like M&Ms, on the prescribed schedule while sticking to any dietary requirements. While this doesn’t prepare one for possible side effects, developing the habit can help you at times when remembering to take therapy might be more of a challenge.
Perhaps the first and most important aspect of adherence lies in choosing the right therapy for you in the first place. Drugs can differ in many ways including:
- whether or not they can be taken with food,
- whether they are taken by mouth or by injection,
- how many times a day they must be taken,
- how many pills per day are needed,
- what other drugs or complementary therapies they can and cannot be used with,
- their side effects and how they make a person feel, and
- whether or not they require refrigeration or other special handling
When you and your doctor are considering therapies, it would be helpful to keep in mind how challenging maintaining adherence might be for you at the very beginning of the process rather than finding out later.
Adapted from www.projectinform.org