HIV: Taking Antiretroviral Drugs
British Columbia Specific Information
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes an infection that damages the immune system. The immune system is the part of the body that fights infection and disease. If untreated, HIV infection will lead to a serious disease called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
For information on HIV infection and care in British Columbia, visit BC Centre for Disease Control and BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. For information on HIV drug coverage in B.C., please visit the Ministry of Health BC PharmaCare website.
In B.C. HIV testing guidelines recommend that everyone have an HIV test at least every 5 years. They recommend more frequent testing for people who belong to populations that have a greater chance of having HIV, are pregnant, experience a change in their health that suggests HIV, or if someone requests a test. For information on HIV testing, see HealthLinkBC File #08m HIV and HIV Tests and HealthLinkBC File #38a HIV Testing in Pregnancy.
Top of the pageActionset
Taking antiretroviral drugs for HIV will not cure your infection. But it may allow you to stay healthy for a long time.
Your willingness and ability to follow your antiretroviral therapy schedule exactly as prescribed is essential for successful treatment of your HIV infection. Not following your prescribed HIV therapy may cause treatment failures, such as:
- Drug resistance. The virus that causes HIV can become resistant to antiretroviral drugs used to treat the infection.
- Higher viral loads. This measures how much HIV is present in your blood.
- Disease progression.
In the past a person had to take many pills several times a day, which was hard for some people. But over the past few years, this routine has become much simpler, and people take their medicine only once or twice a day. With the right knowledge and tools, you can successfully take your medicine as prescribed.
How can you take your antiretroviral therapy drugs as prescribed?
In the past, a person had to take many pills several times a day, which was hard for some people. But over the past few years this routine has become much simpler. Now people take their medicine only once or twice a day. With the right knowledge and tools, you can successfully take your medicine as prescribed.
Work with your doctor when starting ART.
- Know the names of all of your drugs.
- Know when to take your medicine. Write down when to take your medicine, and have your doctor check it. Get pictures of all of your drugs so you are sure you are taking the right drug and the right dose at the right time. Be sure you understand how much of each drug to take and when to take each one.
- Know how to handle missed doses. Talk with your doctor about what you should do if you accidentally miss a dose of a drug. Discuss what to do for each drug—it may be different for each one.
- Learn what other drugs to avoid. Some drugs can cause a bad reaction or a decrease in effectiveness if they are taken with antiretroviral drugs.
Keep the following in mind:
- Store drugs properly. Keeping drugs in a location that is too hot or too cold may decrease their effectiveness. Find out from your doctor or pharmacist how to properly store your drugs. Always store drugs out of the reach of children.
- Watch for side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to expect. Notify your doctor immediately if you have any serious side effects.
- Avoid other drugs. Post your drugs-to-avoid list in a place where you can refer to it whenever you need to. Always check with your doctor before taking any additional drugs, prescription or non-prescription. This includes any herbal or "natural" supplements.
- Review your drug list. Review your list and bring it with you each time you visit with your doctor. Tell your doctor about any side effects you are having.
- Communicate with your doctor. Notify your doctor immediately if you have any serious side effects. Let your doctor know if you have any changes in your health that might affect your condition, such as weight loss or another medical condition.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.