What Is Treatment Adherence?
Treatment Adherence means following the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare provider. This includes:
- Taking pills as prescribed
- Attending regular healthcare appointments, as advised by your doctor(s)
- Reducing stress
- Eating healthier
- Sleeping better
Sticking to your treatment plan is important because any disruption to it can cause the virus to progress in your body, and can leave your body open to Opportunistic Infections.
In order for your medication to work, whether you may be taking it to treat HIV or to prevent HIV, you must take it consistently and as prescribed by your doctor to have enough in your body to fight the virus. Any interruptions to your schedule can lower the effectiveness of your medication, and can leave you vulnerable to Superinfection, or other illnesses. Similarly, you may need to take daily medications to manage other chronic health conditions.
Sticking to your treatment plan is important because any disruption to it can cause the virus to progress in your body, and can leave your body open to Opportunistic Infections. In order for your medication to work, whether you may be taking it to treat HIV or to prevent HIV, you must take it consistently and as prescribed by your doctor to have enough in your body to fight the virus. Any interruptions to your schedule can lower the effectiveness of your medication, and can leave you vulnerable to Superinfection, or other illnesses. Similarly, you may need to take daily medications to manage other chronic health conditions.
How Can A Pill Burden Keep Me From Treatment Adherence?
While there may be the worry of cost, HIV medication is free of charge. Nonetheless, sticking to the number of pills that you have to take may be burdensome all on its own. Here are some reasons that this may feel like a burden.
- Side Effects - Medication may have side effects that can be difficult to handle. If you are experiencing any side effects of concern, speak to your doctor at your treatment site as soon as possible. Doctors may be able to help you manage side effects by taking medications with food, taking them at specific time of day, or in some cases by changing your regimen.
- Sticking to Schedule - When you start, there may be many pills that you have to take at various times in the day, on a daily basis. While this can be overwhelming, some ways in which you can deal with this is to set alarms with notes to remind you of which to take at what time. Pill organizer boxes can also be a helpful tool. If you are traveling, you should walk with a little more medication than you need, in case of any accidents or loss.
- Confusion - Some people may not be sure of how they should be taking their medication. As such, they may forget when and how much to take at a time. You can use reminders on your phones, or even ask someone who is regularly around or with you to remind you of these details.
- Delay in Access to Medications - While in Trinidad and Tobago we receive medications on a regular basis, there can sometimes be delays in shipments. If this happens and you are affected by a medication stock-out, keep your doctor informed of how many days you may have missed on your medication. When you regain access, continue to take it consistently.
- No Difference in Symptoms - You may want your medication to work right away and relieve you of your symptoms. However, your pills must be taken as prescribed consistently, some for months even, for them to be effective, as well as lessen or eliminate your symptoms. When treatment does take effect, you may feel that you no longer need to take your medication because you do not have any more symptoms. Do not stop taking your medications if you feel better - you must remain consistent! A break in your treatment can result in a sudden increase in your symptoms, and you can get very sick again.
Remember to always tell your healthcare team about all of the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and natural supplements. Your doctor can check to be sure that none of your medications cause harmful drug interactions.
So let’s ensure that we don’t let the pill burden get the better of us. Here are some Tips to Boost your Treatment Adherence:
- Set Alarms to remind you to take your medications at the same time everyday.
- Connect the intake of your medication with a daily activity (eating breakfast, brushing teeth, feeding your pet).
- Keep a calendar and mark each time that you take your pills.
- Use a pill container and refill at the same time each week
Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your treatment plan, you can speak to anyone on your Dream Team to help make a plan that works best for you.
For this and other questions about adhering to your pill medication, call the National HIV Helpline on 800-4HIV or 800-4448. (This is a toll-free number)
You are not alone. #youarenotalonett