Some tips to help you take your treatment

Simple forgetfulness is probably the most common reason why people miss doses of anti-HIV drugs. Don’t give yourself too hard a time if this happens occasionally – you’re only human, after all! But if it’s happening often, talk to your doctor about it. It might be that you can change to a treatment combination that is easier to adhere to. If this isn’t an option, then there might be some practical support that can be offered to help you manage your treatment better.

It could be that you just need a few prompts or reminders to boost your chances of taking your medication. Listed below are a few strategies you might find useful.

Practise

Before you start taking a combination, if possible, practise for a few weeks before. For example, take sweets or multivitamins in the same quantities and at the same time as you would have to take your anti-HIV drugs. Make sure that you also follow any dietary restrictions.

Keep a diary

Have a written record of the doses you need to take. Tick off each dose as you take it.

Jog your memory

If you need a reminder, then setting an alarm on a watch or a mobile phone might prove useful.

Pill boxes

Research published in 2007 showed that pill boxes helped people with HIV take their medicines correctly. It recommended that everybody taking anti-HIV drugs should be given a pill box!

You can get partitioned containers from your clinic to fill every week or few days with individual doses. Keep doses in different places where you might be when the time you need to take a dose comes around, for example at work, in your bag, or at a friend's house. Make sure that the container is suitable – pills can deteriorate if not stored properly – and remember that medicines have a use-by date. Make sure that you store medicines out of the reach of children, and avoid places that are very cold or hot.

Holidays, travel, and going out

Going away on holiday might involve some issues about taking your medication. Travelling long distances might disrupt your medicine schedule. Make sure that you take enough medicine with you, and always travel with your pills in your hand luggage. That way, it’s closer to hand if you need to take it during your journey and is also less likely to get lost.

Holidays involve a break in routine, which could mean that you miss some of the prompts that remind you to take your drugs. It may help if you think in advance of other ways to remember them.

Taking your medicine away from home may mean that you will have to take it around people who don’t know about your health, or whom you don’t want to know. Plan in advance how to manage this. Simple things like having a bottle of water by your bed, and a handy snack like a chocolate bar (if you need to take your medicines with food), might give you the privacy you need to take your medicines.

Even going out for the evening can increase the chances that you might miss a dose. So make sure that you have any necessary medicine on you before you leave home. If you’re going to a club and are likely to be searched, there’s a chance that door staff might not recognise prescription medicines. There have been cases of people having their HIV medication confiscated by bouncers when trying to get into clubs.

Simply having a good time, particularly if you’ve been drinking or taking drugs, can also increase your chances of missing a dose. Try and have a prompt to remind you to take your medicines. Also remember that anti-HIV drugs and recreational drugs can interact. Ask your doctor or other member of your healthcare team if this is a concern for you. They should be able to offer advice about minimising the risk. It's very important that you don’t skip doses.

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.