For many people, remembering to take a daily medication can be the difference between life and death, especially if you are living with HIV.
Once you start taking HIV treatment, it’s important that you take it every day. Your healthcare professional will explain how many pills to take, how often to take them and why is it so important to take it everyday.
So, why is it so important to take my medication every day?
When the HIV virus infects your body, the virus makes copies of itself. HIV medicines can help stop HIV from making copies of itself and can reduce the total amount of HIV in your body. But if you do not take HIV medicines every day, they may eventually stop working against HIV. This is due to the HIV virus acquiring drug resistance.
Once you become resistant to an HIV medicine, you will have to switch to another one. Taking all your HIV medicines daily is the key to keeping your HIV levels down and avoiding resistance. When you stick to your HIV medicine schedule very closely, it is called adherence.
What if I forget to take my pills?
While you should try to take every dose of your medication as prescribed, most people taking HIV treatment occasionally forget to take a dose or take it late. But there is a difference between an occasional missed dose and regularly forgetting on a daily or weekly basis.
In general, if you forget to take a dose, take your medications as soon as you realize you’ve missed the dose. However, if it’s almost time for your next dose, just wait until your next dose and continue your regular routine. Most important, do not take a double dose; you cannot make up for a missed dose that way. Although it’s important to take your HIV medications every day, you likely will not develop drug resistance from missing just one medication dose.
If you miss a dose and are not sure what to do, it’s a good idea to ring your clinic for advice.
Why do people miss doses of their HIV medicines?
The most common reasons for people not taking HIV medicines are:
- Feeling sick from the side effects.
- Work or travel schedules make them forget.
- Total number of pills they have to take and whether or not they have to take them with food.
- Sleeping and eating schedules get in the way.
- Depression or other mental health problems.
- Using drugs or alcohol — forgetting or not taking their HIV medication
- Not understanding how important it is to take medication on schedule
Do you have to take your HIV medication if your viral load is undetectable?
Yes, antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces your viral load, ideally to an undetectable level. If your viral load goes down after starting ART, then the treatment is working, and you should continue to take your medicine as prescribed. If you keep an undetectable viral load, you can stay healthy and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex. – HIV Testing In Malaysia
How can I remember to take my HIV medicines on time?
Here are some tips:
- Take your meds at the same time every day coinciding with your morning coffee or meal, after brushing your teeth or at bedtime.
- Leave yourself notes to help you remember
- Use a pillbox with the days of the week
- Keep a calendar to write down doses and when refills are due
- Set an alarm in your home or on your smartphone or watch to remind you when to take your pills.
If you have any problems, questions or concerns about your treatment or health, talk to your healthcare professional and they will be able to help you make an informed decision. If you think you may have HIV infection, take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones by talking to our doctors about getting tested and treated early.
Next read: How Will Taking HIV Medications Help?