HIV Medicine Management: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Taking antiretroviral medicines for HIV may allow you to stay healthy for a long time.

Successful treatment of your HIV infection depends on following a strict schedule for taking medicine. Not taking medicine when you are supposed to can lead to problems such as drug resistance and higher viral loads, and the disease may get worse.

In the past, schedules for taking medicine for HIV were very complicated. Taking many pills several times each day was difficult. But the routine has become much more simple, and you may only have to take medicine one or two times each day.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Staying on your schedule

  • Know the names of all of your medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to clearly explain the actions and purpose of each of your medicines. If you understand what you are taking and how it helps, it may be easier to follow your schedule. Write down the generic name (and brand name if there is one) for all of your medicines. Have your doctor check the list.
  • Know when to take your medicine. Write down a schedule, and have your doctor check it. Try to take them around the same times every day.
  • Use a pillbox with compartments for each time you need to take your medicines. Using a pillbox lets you know when you have taken each dose so that you do not miss a dose. And it also will help you not take too many pills.
  • Know how to handle missed doses. Talk with your doctor about what you should do if you miss a dose. Discuss what to do for each medicine-it may be different for each one.

Other tips

  • Always check with your doctor before taking any other medicines. This includes over-the-counter medicines and natural health products.
  • Learn about other medicines you should not take at the same time as your antiretroviral medicines.
  • Store medicines properly. Find out from your doctor or pharmacist how to properly store your medicines. Keeping medicines in a location that is too hot or too cold may decrease how well they work. Always store medicines out of the reach of children.
  • Watch for side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to expect. Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects. Do not stop taking your medicine or change the dose on your own. This could cause the medicine to stop working. Work with your doctor to find a solution.
  • Make a list of all the medicines you take, and bring it with you to each visit with your doctor. Have your doctor review your list at each visit.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are wheezing or having trouble breathing after starting a medicine.
  • Your lips, throat, tongue, or face are swelling quickly.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have problems taking your medicine.
  • You have trouble taking your medicine when you are supposed to.
  • You notice side effects from your medicine. These may include:
    • A skin rash.
    • A fever.
    • Nausea and vomiting.
    • Fatigue.
    • Trouble breathing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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