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October 2021

Trouble Taking Your HIV Medicine? Here’s Help

Brushing your teeth, charging your phone, drinking water. After an HIV diagnosis, there’s one more task to add to your daily to-do list: taking your medicine on time.

Treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) means you can live a longer, healthier life. Taking your medicines exactly as prescribed can:

  • Reduce the amount of virus in your body

  • Prevent you from spreading the disease to partners

  • Keep your immune system strong

Skipping doses—even once in a while—gives the virus a chance to multiply. Over time, it can even change form. Then, your treatment might not work as well.

Don’t let circumstances stand in the way of your health. Here are some tips to overcome 9 common treatment obstacles.

  1. I always forget. Set alarms or download a reminder app to your phone or watch. You can also use a paper calendar or ask friends to call or text to jog your memory.


  2. My schedule’s too hectic. Ask your provider about simplifying. For instance, you might be able to switch to a once-daily regimen. Keep organized with a weekly pill box. Plan ahead for travel and other changes in your routine.

  3. I don’t think I need medicine. I feel fine. Remember: Treatment keeps your viral load in check. Taking it as directed ensures you stay healthy.

  4. I missed a dose already. Don’t panic—but do check with your provider. In most cases, you’ll simply take the medicine as soon as you can, then take your next dose at the scheduled time.

  5. My prescription ran out. Ask the pharmacy for automatic refills so you won’t get caught with an empty bottle.

  6. I can’t stand the side effects. HIV medicines can cause nausea, diarrhea, and other issues. Tell your provider what’s happening. Other medicines or nutritional counseling may help.

  7. Swallowing pills isn’t easy. You’re not alone—as many as 2 in 5 adults have trouble getting pills down. Try relaxation techniques or special cups, straws, and other devices.

  8. I can’t afford them. No insurance coverage? You have options. A case manager or benefits counselor can tell you about available programs and services. Talk with your provider if cost concerns make it hard for you to keep up with your HIV medicines.

  9. I don’t feel up to it. It’s normal to feel sad or tired at times. But your mental health is important—and support resources work to restore it. Ask your provider about getting help for depression, substance use, or other struggles.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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