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Talking to Your Health Care Provider About HIV Treatment Adherence Issues
A Doctor's Office Discussion Guide

By Myles Helfand and Ben Young, M.D., Ph.D.

September 1, 2011

Ben Young, M.D., Ph.D.

Ben Young, M.D., Ph.D.

Keeping up with your HIV medications is your responsibility, but it's not a burden you have to bear alone. One of the most important allies you can have is your own HIV care provider (HCP) -- the person who prescribes your meds, keeps track of your lab tests and is your go-to person on HIV-related medical issues.

We realize that, if you're doing things that hurt your ability to adhere to your HIV treatment, your HCP won't always feel like the easiest person to confide in. How can you tell your doc that you missed your daily pill because you were out partying way too hard to even remember, much less care enough, to take it? How do you admit to a nurse that you're so embarrassed by a diarrhea side effect that you decided to skip a dose in the hope that you wouldn't have to suddenly run out of an important meeting?

It's often not easy to trust. But if you want your treatment to work, you and your health care team have to work as partners. The more your team knows about any problems you might have with adherence -- all of your problems -- the more likely it is that they can help. You don't have to do this alone.

Here's how you can do your part.

Before Non-Adherence Becomes a Problem:

If Your Treatment Fails:

Keeping up with your HIV meds is so much easier when you have an HCP you can trust; someone you can be open and honest with about your concerns and your problems. The tips above can help, but above all else, the most important piece of this puzzle is you. HIV treatment is literally a matter of life and death, and you have to be ready for the commitment -- you have to want it to work.

If you're not 100 percent on board with the idea of taking meds every day, talk to someone who can help you get there: your HCP, a case manager, a local HIV support group, someone you can trust. Millions of people successfully take their HIV meds despite facing huge obstacles; you can find a way to make this work.

Myles Helfand is the editorial director of and

Ben Young, M.D., Ph.D., is the executive medical director of Rocky Mountain CARES, a comprehensive nonprofit HIV service organization in Denver, Colo. Dr. Young is also a regular contributor in our "Ask the Experts" forum on Choosing Your Meds.

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