- Watch clocks and calendars. Clocks and calendars rule in managing adherence. Buy a cheap plug-in clock with numbers so bright you'll see them for miles. Set the alarm if that helps. Calendars help track when prescriptions need refills. Buy calendars with whatever kind of pictures keep you looking at each month.
- Buy a wristwatch that allows you to set at least three alarm times in 24-hours. Adherence is achieved when you keep to your pill-taking schedule of every 6 or 12 hours, depending on your regimen.
- Free pill trays are often available from your AIDS service organizations. Grab two trays. Keep one filled with a week's worth of meds. It's time consuming to count out each dose, each time, on time, more than once daily. In the second pill tray keep a day's worth of pills in your car or at work, just in case you forget.
- Put medicines in sight such as on the kitchen counter or where you throw your keys once inside or next to the TV remote. If you can "see" your meds routinely, there's a better chance you remember to take them on time, every time.
- If you have food requirements be sure to chart out exactly what and when you can and cannot eat. Generally, high-fat foods don't go well with HIV meds, although some meds will advise you to eat fatty foods to help you absorb the drug.
- Agree with a friend to accept calls reminding you to take your medicines. Make a telephone-tree of all your friends on HIV meds. Commit to calling around the circle to insure adherence.
- Take your morning and/or night dose when you brush your teeth. Maybe there's another daily routine that could be easily combined with taking meds, like immediately before or after you exercise.
- Reward yourself. If you make it through a week or month without missing a dose, reward yourself. If you miss a dose, be gentle. Adherence is a lifelong commitment.
- The best defense against side effects involves knowing what they are and how they affect you. For example, keep a log for a week or longer. Write down all your side effects, when they occur, for how long. Note any links to mealtime or certain foods. Then avoid the foods and situations that lead to your discomfort.
- Always coordinate your care with a health care provider. Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek guidance. If your doctor or case manager is annoyed by questions, find another one.
Frank Pizzoli writes frequently about HIV/AIDS issues and is the founder of the non-profit organization Positive Opportunities (PosOps@aol.com).