Question

can I decide which HIV medication I want to take on my own?

Answer

Hello and thanks for posting.

The decision on what medications to take to treat HIV depends on a number of factors.

First and foremost, one should stick to scientifically proven regimens- this daunting task (there are a lot of clinical trials) is made easier by the smart women and men who serve on national and international treatment guideline panels. Here are links to the US Department of Health and Human Services and
World Health Organization guidelines (disclosure: I serve on the World Health Organization panel).

Second, selection of a treatment regimen should be based on the presence (or absence) of viral drug resistance and one's individual health background (such as viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, mental health or kidney disease).

Third, other factors like dietary restrictions or potential drug-drug interactions with other medications or supplements/vitamins can also influence choice of medications.

Forth, HIV medications should be prescribed by a trained healthcare provider. The healthcare provider can be a physician, but in many settings (including our clinic in Denver, Colorado), high quality care can be rendered by non-physician providers (nurse practitioner and physician assistant); in other settings (such as sub-Saharan Africa), trained nurses often provide treatment.

Fifth, current HIV medications are very well tolerated and are rarely associated with significant toxicity or side effects. When side effects are present, alternate treatments nearly always address the problem.

Last, HIV medications are widely recommended for all people living with HIV. High quality scientific studies show that treatment, even in asymptomatic people with normal CD4 cell counts, reduces risk of disease progression, serious infections, cancer and among people with viral suppression, prevents transmission to others. The choice to take medicines remains an individual one, but should be informed by these principles.

I hope that this is helpful, BY