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Taking your HIV treatment

taking treatment

Taking all the doses of your HIV treatment at the right time (‘adherence’) is very important. There are some practical steps you can take to help you do this.

What can help me with my HIV treatment adherence?

Here are some strategies you can use to help you to take your treatment:

Practice first. To get into the routine of pill-taking, you could practise for a few weeks before starting. Try having mints or vitamin tablets at the times you’ll be taking your treatments. Learn from this and work with your healthcare team to come up with a schedule that is right for you.

Remembering by association. Keep your medication in a place where you will remember to take it and try to link your pill-taking times with other daily routines – getting up, going to bed, meal times, taking the children to school, a particular radio or TV programme, or tea breaks at work.

Right place & time. Collect your new prescription in plenty of time to ensure you have a good supply of drugs and make sure you keep your drugs in a safe, dry, cool place, away from children. Bathrooms are not ideal because of the humidity.

Compartmentalise. You can probably get pill containers or dosette boxes from your clinic. They have compartments so you can divide up your tablets according to when they need to be taken. They can help if you forget which pills to take, or if you’re not sure whether you’ve already taken your pills.

Reminders. Keep a note, a picture or some other reminder on the back of your front door to remind you to take medication with you before leaving home. You can also set an alarm on your mobile phone or your watch to ring when your doses are due, although this can draw the attention of other people.

Keeping tabs. If you keep a diary or pill planner, you can tick off the dose once you’ve taken it, and if you use a computer at work, you can use the calendar or task programme to automatically send you reminders. You could use a code word to mean anti-HIV drugs. You can also use the My medication and reminders tools on this site to ensure you take your treatment on time.

No surprises. Plan for weekends, holidays or other times when you don’t have your usual routine. Make extra efforts to remind yourself and, if appropriate, ask the people you’re with to remind you. Take extra medication in case your scheduled return is delayed.

Have water. Keep a bottle of water in your bag, so you can take your treatment wherever you are. If you don’t want people to see you taking your treatment, excuse yourself to go to the toilet or to make a phone call.

Never run out. Avoid running out of your medication by renewing your prescriptions in advance.

Ask for help. Ask a partner, trusted family member or friend to remind you to take your doses.

Emergency dose. Keep an emergency dose close at hand – for example, in your bag, glove compartment of a car or at a partner’s or friend’s home. If you have to go to an Accident and Emergency department at a hospital, take sufficient HIV medication with you in case you are admitted.

More help with adherence:



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 3/7/2014 by R. Bignami

Date due for the next review: 1/7/2016

Content Author: S. Corkery, NAM

Current Owner: Greta Hughson (NAM)

More information:

Williams I et al. BHIVA guidelines for the treatment of HIV-1 positive adults with antiretroviral therapy 2012 (Updated November 2013)