- Pharmacists are usually much more readily available than doctors, and probably more helpful. Take advantage of this. Ask them all your questions.
- Nail down your doctor and pharmacist on potential side effects and how to handle them. Also remember that side effects can pop up after years without a problem. But don't let someone else's horror story stop you from taking a particular drug. You may not be affected.
- A good doctor will review how the drugs fit your lifestyle. Research suggests that the best predictor of adherence is the amount of time a doctor or other healthcare provider spends discussing the drugs with you.
- See an HIV specialist. Research shows that your chances for good treatment, better health and survival will improve.
- Good Web sites to visit: www.aidsmeds.com, www.aidsmap.com and www.aidsinfonet.org. Also, Dr. A. V. Munsiff puts together an excellent chart of all HIV drug interactions (including methadone) and other information. It comes laminated and folded. Send $2 to cover cost of printing and postage to P.O. Box 543, Scarsdale, NY 10583.
- Ask for a copy of all your lab results. They are free, but your doctor's office may charge you a small fee for sending a copy elsewhere. Laboratory testing should be performed before starting therapy and then at periodic intervals or if any clinical signs or symptoms occur. Try to have a fasting measure taken (do not eat or drink anything but water for at least 12 hours prior to the blood draw).
- To monitor mother and child outcomes of pregnant women exposed to HIV drugs, the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry has been established. Physicians are encouraged to register patients by calling (800) 258-4263.
- Writer Michael Mooney, the late Chester Myers, a nutritionist, and Lark Lands, complementary health guru, all HIV treatment advocates, have made the following recommendations to prevent or reverse heart damage and fat redistribution being seen with drug therapy: progressive resistance exercise (weight-bearing) or aerobic exercise to reduce insulin resistance; testosterone replacement where needed (women included) to reduce insulin resistance and build muscle; high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement; glutathione-boosting nutrients daily (600-1,200 mg alpha lipoic acid; and 5-10 gm glutamine, or 30-40 gm in cases of severe muscle loss) antioxidants (1,500-3,000 mg N-aceytl-cysteine, or NAC; 2,000-3,000 mg vitamin C; 1,200 IU vitamin E distributed throughout the day); a GTF (glucose tolerance factor) formula with 200-300 mcg chromium three times a day (also helps increase insulin sensitivity) and 500-700 mg magnesium for glucose metabolism (sugar control).
For a free copy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for HIV treatment for adults, children, and pregnant women (as well as principles of HIV therapy), call 1-800-HIV (448)-0440 , visit www.hivatis.org, or write ATIS, P.O. Box 6303, Rockville, MD 20849-6303. Also available in Spanish.