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Preparing to start your HIV treatment

Taking antiretroviral therapy is a long-term commitment. At present, once you start the drugs, you are likely to have to take them for the rest of your life.  

There are now over 20 anti-HIV drugs available, and a number of recommended combinations for people starting HIV treatment. This means that you and your doctor will usually be able to find a combination that best suits your circumstances.

Taking your individual needs and preferences into account may mean that you are less likely to encounter problems taking your treatment. Being honest with yourself and your doctor about your lifestyle can help ensure that you start on a drug combination that is right for you. It's a good idea not to make unrealistic demands on yourself, and to think about how taking medication will fit in with your eating and sleeping patterns, your housing circumstances, and with your work, family and social life.

Discuss your daily routine with your doctor, adherence nurse or pharmacist to help establish the best times to take your anti-HIV drugs and to identify any concerns before you begin. The chances are that there will be a combination of anti-HIV drugs available that will mean you don’t have to change your lifestyle at all, or make only modest alterations to your routine.

Some people have found that taking ‘practice’ doses of sweets or multivitamins for a few weeks in the same quantities, and at the same time, as you will have to take your anti-HIV drugs regimen (and taking account of any dietary or other restrictions), helps them to adhere to their actual regimen when they start it.

And some people find it easier to form the habit of taking their HIV treatment if they combine it with another established habit, such as brushing their teeth, having dinner or going to bed. Talk to your healthcare team about your routine, and they can help you identify a time of the day that’s good for you.

Taking your HIV treatment

Published March 2014

Last reviewed March 2014

Next review March 2017

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this booklet.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.