May 18, 2014
"Wait a minute did I take my meds?" This is a question I often ask even if my pill box, mobile application, or friend says I have. Anxiety, nervousness, fear, and due diligence keep me on track to continue to the best of my ability to take my medications faithfully. For me the process of taking my three medications everyday at 9 am is an experience both with and without emotion. Every time I swallow my pills, I am reminded that HIV is living inside me.
According to the CDC, one in four people living with HIV have achieved viral suppression. In other words, three out of four people living with HIV in the United States have either not connected to care or do not adhere to their medication to achieve viral suppression (meaning they have a very low level of HIV in your blood). And while that doesn't mean I'm cured, by lowering the amount of virus in my body with medicines can keep me healthy, I am able to live longer, and significantly reduce chances of passing HIV on to others. To ensure that I have a great future is the motivating factor behind me staying focused on taking my medication as prescribed. I am proud that to I'm able to maintain my undetectable viral load while increasing my CD4 count/percentage. Seeing those lab results helps to show improvement and reward my diligence of staying on track.
Many people may be surprised when I use rewards to treat my success of staying adherent. Giving myself a pat on the back in the form of something that I enjoy gives me a goal to work toward. I call myself a "cheatatarian," because I tend to often sneak out of my vegetarian diet. My love for chicken sandwiches and seafood is ridiculous; therefore, when I stay adherent without any issues for the month I reward myself by going to my favorite restaurant and having some of those foods (in moderation of course)!
A good physical, mental, spiritual, and organizational balance also helps me stay adherent to my HIV meds. Even with my busy schedule running Pozlifeofpatrick, going to school, and managing my professional duties, I always make personal quiet time. That "quiet time" might be playing my favorite game, training for my upcoming marathon, and video chatting with a friend or mentor. And while these activities aren't necessarily "quiet", the silence comes in being able to separate out the stressors of the blog, school, and work. This helps me slow down and take the time to focus on my medications.
Tools like pillboxes and mobile applications can also help to remind people to take their medications. Personally, I use Care4Today which alerts me to take my meds and helps me chart my adherence. When I am out of town, it reminds me on east coast time (and even asks me to change the time zone). But the feature I find most helpful, is that it notifies providers or family members if I have not taken my medication. There are many online tools and applications like Care4Today,including pill monitor, TheBody.com's personal reminder service, and RxmindMe that have similar functions. All can be helpful for people who need a reminder or that will check in with a support person when/if you miss a day. Offline, I take extra care to ensure that I have my HIV medication located in my bag that I take everywhere (in a nice discreet carrier). This helps me just in case if I am in a rush and totaly forget about my medications.
Finding out what motivates you to stay adherent, along with a system that fits with your lifestyle, is the key. If you are living