The better you understand your HIV medication, the easier it will be to manage the condition.
The good news about treatment for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is that it has helped more and more people live relatively normal lives. Today’s treatments can keep HIV from replicating in the blood so it can’t progress to AIDS. However, in order for your treatment to be successful, you have to take your HIV medication consistently as prescribed by your doctor.
In general, people who understand their medication and why they’re taking it are more likely to stick with it. Being informed empowers you to make good decisions about your treatments. It also keeps you motivated when treatment feels inconvenient or burdensome.
Questions to Ask About Your HIV Medication
One of the best ways to better understand your HIV medication is to ask your doctor lots of questions about it. Each HIV medicine works slightly differently, so it’s not always the best approach to just read about HIV treatment online. Your doctor can give you the most accurate information about your specific HIV medicine, as well as how it may affect you given your personal health factors.
When you’re starting a new HIV medication, good questions to ask your doctor include:
- Why are you recommending this medicine for me?
- How does it work?
- What is the goal of this medicine?
- What side effects should I expect?
- How do I take it?
- Should I take it with food?
- What time should I take it?
- Will it interfere with my other medicines?
Communicating with Your Doctor
HIV internist Stella Safo, MD, says that sometimes her patients are afraid to mention that they’re having unpleasant side effects of their medication. They worry that they don’t have any other options, so they’ll just stick to the treatment that’s not actually working for them.
“I always remind them that we have so many HIV drugs. It’s just a matter of what will be best for you, given the type of HIV that you have and given the other characteristics that are part of your life,” says Dr. Safo.
In other words, speak up if your specific HIV medication isn’t working in your life. You may find that another one works better for you or causes fewer side effects—but you won’t find out unless you are open and honest with your doctor about what you’re experiencing.
Stella A. Safo, MD, is an HIV primary care physician and assistant professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.
- HIV/AIDS medicines. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on June 3, 2021)
- HIV treatment. Bethesda, MD: Office of Aids Research, National Institutes of Health. (Accessed on June 3, 2021)
- What is HIV treatment? Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on June 3, 2021)