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HIV & Me: A Guide to Living With HIV for Hispanics
Step 6: Preparing to Start HIV Treatment
Once your health care provider recommends that you begin treatment, it's important to consider how treatment will change your life. Are you ready mentally, as well as physically, to take medications every day? Remember: Most HIV specialists say that you have to take your medications exactly as prescribed, at least 95 percent of the time, to keep HIV under control and prevent it from becoming "resistant." HIV that is resistant can make your medications less effective.

This means you have to be certain that taking your medications will become a central part of your daily life. Be honest with your HIV specialist about anything that may make it more difficult for you to take all of your medications on time. If you have a case manager or a counselor, talk with them about this important issue as well.

Without a doubt, the commitment to taking HIV medications will be challenging. This is especially true for women, who generally have lots of family responsibilities to deal with.

However, you have a good chance of keeping HIV under control with the very first combination of medications that works for you. If this combination successfully controls your HIV, and if you take each and every pill as prescribed, you may not have to change medications for a long time. Here are some things to consider:

What if you aren't always able to take all your medications on time?
This may cause your combination of medications to fail. If this happens, it can get harder and harder to keep HIV under control with each new drug combination. It's crucial to identify a combination you can stick to, before you start treatment.

Your Medication Schedule Shouldn't Be Too Complex
One thing is certain: Taking medications daily will change your life. This is especially challenging when you are taking care of children. Suddenly, you'll have an additional responsibility. You'll always have to be aware of the time, your schedule and changes in your routine.

Rafael Abadia

"I've been on my regimen for a little over two years. I've never missed one dosage. I have my big pill organizer for the week. I just fill it once a week with my meds and my vitamins. I always take them. I'd rather skip on my vitamins. But I never skip on my meds."

-- Rafael Abadia, diagnosed in 1993

In some cases, you may have to schedule taking your HIV medicine around meals or take it with or without certain foods. Even if you are depressed or busy, you will still have to take your medications as prescribed every single day. So, before you begin HIV treatment, you must ask yourself: "Am I really ready?"

Plan How You Will Deal With Side Efects if They Ocur
All medications can have side effects -- even aspirin. Not everyone experiences side effects from HIV medications, which can range from mild to severe. Because you really want to give this first combination your best shot, talk to your doctor and read about the possible side effects of the medications you are thinking of taking. This can help you not only to plan how to manage side effects if they arise, but to choose medications whose possible side effects you can manage. Be sure to let your doctor know before you stop medicines due to side effects.

Your Mental Health AND Surroundings Are Critical
If you are depressed, using recreational drugs or living on a friend's couch, it may be unrealistic to assume you'll be able to take all your medications all the time. Remember, it helps a lot to have friends, family, a support group or a therapist you can rely on while you are on a treatment regimen -- especially at the beginning when you are still adjusting to taking meds.

This article was provided by TheBody. It is a part of the publication HIV and Me.


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