Joel Gallant, M.D., Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md.
With most of the HIV drugs we use today, taking medications on time isn't nearly as important as just taking them. For example, it's more important to take Reyataz, Prezista and Edurant with food than at the same time each day, while Sustiva and Atripla are often better tolerated on an empty stomach.
A pillbox is critical. Many people think pillboxes are only for people who take a lot of medications, but even if you're just taking one pill a day, you should use a pillbox that separates your pills by the day of the week. With a pillbox, you never have to wonder whether you took your meds or not.
Link medication doses with daily activities. If you take your meds with food, choose the meal you eat every day, preferably at home, and store your pills in the kitchen. If you take your meds in the morning or at bedtime, put your pills next to the toothpaste and take them when you brush your teeth.
In most cases, it's better to take your medications late than to skip them completely. That may mean taking a dose at breakfast if you forget the dose you usually take at dinner. The exceptions are Atripla and Sustiva, because morning doses can cause daytime side effects.
Finally, don't panic if you accidentally miss a dose once in a while. Most of the drugs we use today last a long time in the blood, so the occasional missed dose won't cause you to fail therapy or develop resistance. That's especially true once your viral load becomes undetectable; skipping doses is riskier during the first few months of therapy. Missing multiple consecutive doses is worse than missing a single dose, especially if you're taking NNRTIs (Sustiva, Atripla, Viramune, Edurant), so don't go away on vacation without bringing enough pills, and don't wait until Saturday night to find out that you need a refill on Sunday.