Medication Adherence, taking medication as prescribed for as long as needed, is the best way to combat any kind of chronic illness, especially HIV. Staying on medication and taking it as prescribed is a key part of any Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), and the only proven method at controlling HIV. Here are some tips to help you stay on those meds, and make it less stressful.
Get an App
Technology is a wonderful thing. There are countless apps out there to specifically help with medication reminders, but sometimes you might need a little extra motivation. Maybe The Rock Clock is what you are looking for? Or maybe your own alarm is all you need. Either way, leverage the tech you have available at your fingertips to keep you on track. Every resource and support you have is one to use.
Go Old School
If it works for Gram & Gramp then it’s bound to work for you. The plastic daily pill packs might seem like something that only an AARP card holder would use, but no one is getting any younger. Those little daily pill containers wouldn’t still be made and in use if they didn’t work. Give it a try, and not just for your chronic illness related medication either. If you take a daily multi-vitamin, daily allergy medication, or other daily medications, placing your HIV medications in there with them can help in establishing a healthy habit.
Make it routine
Just like a gym schedule, brushing your teeth, or having breakfast; taking your meds should be something that is incredibly normal and every day. Something where if you forget to take them it puts a kind of itch in the back of your mind. If your medication indicates you should take it with food then try to schedule your med and eating time together. Take your meds as the final part of your lunch break or immediately after breakfast.
Stay educated on what your meds are and do
Talk with your doctor. Talk with someone you trust. Talk to whomever is knowledgeable, educated, and an expert on what your medications are (i.e. Not some random blog entry on the internet. OPT-In will ALWAYS advise you to consult with your physician.). Know the full side effects, and know what your meds are doing for your body. If you experience side effects, convey that to your doctor. They will know how to best keep you on ART and manage any side effects at the same time.
Ask questions and more questions
Sometimes the path to medical adherence isn’t as simple as setting an alarm. Sometimes there are more barriers in the way. Payment, mental health, stigma; those are just a small sampling of things that can get in the way of access to medications. Ask your doctor, support system, or case manager for anything that can assist you in staying adherent, and can help you to get access to your medications.
Staying adherent is the ONLY proven method for controlling HIV. Stay on those meds, and seek help when that becomes hard to do on your own. Not when it feels impossible, right when it feels difficult or the least bit hard. Control the problem of medication adherence early, before it becomes a missed doses issue.