ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR YOUR TREATMENTS


My Treatment

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Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment has improved the quality of life for people living with HIV and is your best ally to control the virus and live life to the full.

There are many fears and doubts in relation to this, so this section will provide the information necessary to understand how it works and all the benefits to your health by taking it properly.


Adherence

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Adherence is essential in treatment for this virus. We often hear that adherence refers to taking the drugs every day, however it is much more than that; adherence includes three components.

1. Correct medication: the right dose at the right time.

2. Responsibility for regular checkups: medical and laboratory appointments as well as following your doctor’s instructions and recommendations.

3. Self-care: healthy diet, exercise, responsible sexuality, emotional health, and avoiding alcohol or drug use.

Just like a table missing a leg, if adherence fails to include these three components, it will falter and the results might have a negative impact on your health.

Maintaining adequate adherence means integrating as part of our lives, the fact that we are living with HIV and that these three components will from now on be part of our daily life, with the awareness that every change and every action in favor of our health will result in a better quality of life.

But, why is adherence so difficult? For anyone who has not taken regular medication before, it is difficult to maintain a schedule since in some antiretroviral regimens several doses should be taken at different times.

We also know that medications often cause discomfort or have side effects during the first weeks of treatment. These symptoms will vary, they may appear or not, depending on the individual’s body. However, in many cases it can cause a person to suspend or stop the treatment.

It is important to know that side effects are part of the process of the body’s adaptation to the treatment. We do not know if they will occur or not until the person is taking the medicine and we can observe how he or she responds to the treatment.

For this reason, it is important at this stage to maintain close communication with the doctor, since although the side effects will disappear as days go by, there are options that the doctor can offer you to manage any discomfort better.


Secondary effects

Side effects

These refer to discomfort from taking HIV medication for the first time. Side effects are common and last for a couple of weeks.

Side effects of antiretrovirals (ARVs) may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea (upset stomach)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Occasional dizziness

 

When taking medication, it is important to plan your routine in advance. Telling the doctor about your lifestyle will help identify the side effects that may be difficult to manage so, together with your doctor, choose the regimen that best suits your needs.

The doctor will tell you what the side effects may be, but it is important to know that it is the doctor’s responsibility to talk about them so that if they appear, you do not panic and so that you know that it is part of the process. However, you can only know what your reaction is once you are taking the medication.

Both the doctor and the nutritionist can suggest some tips to counteract these side effects. Communication and trust in your doctor are essential in this process.

Here are some tips to improve the effectiveness of your treatment.

Establish a schedule that fits your daily routine, since you must always take the medication at the same time.

 

Create support networks with friends or family who know that you take medication, so they can help you by reminding you of the time you must take your pill. Prepare a schedule with the medication times and put it in a visible place

 

 

Choose a schedule that is related to a daily activity, for example, after eating or at the same time as your favorite program. Keep in mind that the time should never vary. Maintain a positive attitude.

Occupy your time, get exercise, resume your activities and projects, continue with your normal life, being more careful with your health.

Use your phone alarm to remind you of medication times. You can also ask your Hospital Representative for support with text messages to remind you of the time of medication.

 

 

Use pill boxes to control the treatment. This will also help you to carry your medications in a safe, confidential and appropriate way.

 

Always carry extra doses of the medication in case you cannot get home in time for your medicines. That way you will not miss the time.

 

If you are traveling, take extra medicine with you and if you’re going for a long time, inform your health personnel so they can advise you what to do and how not run out of supplies.

My relationship with my doctor

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During the whole process of understanding your diagnosis and taking control of your health, it is essential to establish a sincere and trusting relationship with your doctor.

It is important that you maintain this close relationship with the whole multidisciplinary team (nurses, psychologists, nutritionist, social worker, pharmacist) since each of them will provide you with support based on their area of ​​expertise, allowing you to achieve integral health and better adapt to the changes you need to make.

The multidisciplinary staff will be there for you with the intention of helping you in the best way possible. However, you will only obtain results by working with them as a team.

Just like the cogs in a machine, in order to achieve success, everyone is required to work together and contribute to this process. The doctor and the clinic’s care team will do their part, but you must contribute what to the process by letting yourself be helped and helping yourself.

To achieve this, you must participate in your treatment … How can you do this?

Here are some recommendations:

  • Go to your appointments on time and on the right day.
  • Get the lab tests indicated by your doctor.
  • Follow instructions about self-care and treatment doses.
  • Keep an open, honest, and close relationship with your doctor and clinical staff.
  • Do not leave the clinic without asking your doctor about any doubts you have.

Self-medication

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Self-medication consists of taking drugs that have not been prescribed by a doctor. Self-medication can have mild or severe consequences.

Many medicines have side effects on their own or when they interact with other medicines. That is why, when you visit the doctor, he will ask a series of questions to learn about your health and determine the appropriate treatment for your problem.

At some time in our lives, many of us have taken medication on the recommendation of a family member or because the person who works in the pharmacy prescribes it based on his “knowledge”.

Once a person starts taking antiretrovirals (ARVs), it is essential to stop this practice. After starting your HIV treatment, you should consult your doctor before taking any other medicines. You should also tell him/her if you were taking medicines for some other illness before being diagnosed with the virus.

When you visit a doctor other than the one doing your HIV control checkups, you must inform him/her that you are HIV positive so that if it is necessary to prescribe a certain medication, this can be taken into account.

It is essential that you learn the names of your medicines to provide this information when necessary.

Many antiretrovirals (ARVs) interact poorly with other medicines and drugs. These interactions may cause serious or fatal overdoses, or they may result in medication falling to such low levels that they are inefficient.

There are also some foods or herbs that can decrease or cause changes in the strength of your antiretrovirals, such as pericon tea, also called St. John’s wort, grapefruit and garlic. Check this information with your doctor and nutritionist so that they can advise you on the best way to manage this situation.

When you need to take any medicine, carefully analyze the information that comes in the leaflet. Also make sure the doctor has information about all medications, drugs, supplements or herbs you are taking. Never make decisions without asking about the risks.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Adherence

1. Is the medication schedule important?

Yes, the effect of the pills lasts for a certain time in your body. Once the next dose is due, if you don’t take it, the body no longer has any medicine circulating in your blood and this allows the virus to multiply.

2. Can I take the medication if the time has passed?

It is definitely best to take it when you remember rather than leaving your body without medication until the next dose.

Secondary effects

1. How long do the side effects last?

The effects can last from days to weeks, although in most cases after two weeks of treatment they decrease or disappear. It is important to remember that some people do not have them - it depends on each individual organism.

2. Do the side effects mean that the medication isn’t good for me?

On the contrary, the medicine will be very good for you. Side effects are your body’s reactions during the adaptation and assimilation process. All medicines can produce these effects to a greater or lesser extent.