Tips on overcoming adherence barriers and working on perfect adherence to your meds have been covered in this column in recent issues.
Even outside our moderately sized continent, adherence is a challenge, as some Australian tips for improving your pill taking demonstrate.
Australia's AIDS Council of New South Wales Inc. (ACON) serves HIV-positive men, women and children; the gay and lesbian community, including transgender people; and those people involved in the community response to HIV/AIDS. As part of ACON's Positive Campaigns, the organization has developed "17 Tips to Improve Your Pill-Taking." The icon for this campaign is a precious kangaroo-man, shown leaping from page to page.
ACON has agreed to allow these tips to be shared with readers of Positive Living. Check it out!
17 Tips To Improve Your Pill Taking
Missing one dose a week causes HIV to multiply for one in five positive people.
It is not easy to always remember your pills. If you have forgotten to take them on time, take them late -- unless it's time for your next pills (doubling the dose does nothing helpful). Check with your doctor about your combination. There are free courses, resources and people that can help.
When HIV multiplies, it can mutate and become resistant to your combination -- then your future treatment options are restricted. Aim to have a constant level of drug in your body and aim to keep a low viral load. A low viral load is as good as "undetectable" for your long-term health.
- Find out what to do if you miss a dose. As a rule, take it late unless it is time for your next pills. Doubling the dose does nothing helpful. Check with your doctor about your combination.
- Think about when and why you miss them. Identify doses you may miss regularly.
- Take your pills with something you do every day. Remembering pill time is difficult. Taking the pills with an everyday task may make it easier -- brush teeth and take pills, eat dinner and take pills.
- Phone a treatment advocate/specialist for a chat. There are friendly people waiting to talk to you about treatments. Ask questions and get answers by calling your treatment advocate or one at APLA at (323) 993-1509.
- Keep a record of when you need new prescriptions. Mark in your diary or on a calendar when it's time to get new prescriptions filled, so you don't run out.
- Use a pill box. Carrying pills in a film canister, Glad Wrap or a pill box is handy if you are out and about.
- Make an appointment with a counselor for support. Talking to professionally trained counselors can make things easier.
- Place your pills near something you use every day. Next to the milk, your toothbrush. If you see them -- you remember them.
- Go to a workshop about pills. Meet other people like you, share experiences, learn heaps, make friends.
- Keep spare doses in a safe place. Have some stashed away. Your doctor can sometimes help with emergency doses.
- Use beepers, computer reminders, Post-it notes, telephone reminder calls, watches, anything that trains you to remember. Forgetting is the most common reason for missing pills. Check any forgetfulness with your doctor.
- Get a free pill box from your pharmacist, treatment advocate or doctor. They have a range that you can look at.
- Stick a magnet on the fridge to remind you. You can also use Post-it notes or something only you recognize.
- Regularly make an appointment with your doctor to talk about your pills. Your health is really important, book long appointments and ask questions.
- Find out what to do if you miss a meal at pill time. For those who need it, a rich chocolate bar or a glass of milk may contain enough fat for your pills to work. For others, coffee or low-fat milk and cereal may be OK when they say no food. Ask your doctor.
- Prepare answers for nosy people. Don't let the people around you make it harder. Say they are medication, or for allergies, or vitamins -- whatever you are comfortable with.
- Talk with friends about your pills. It makes it easier to take them when the people around you know how important they are for your long term health.
Nancy Wongvipat is a health education specialist in APLA's Education Division. She can be reached by calling (323) 993-1511 or by e-mail at nwongvipat@APLA.org.