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HIV: Taking Antiretroviral Drugs


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   HIV: Taking Antiretroviral Drugs

Taking antiretroviral drugs for HIV will not cure your infection. But it may allow you to stay healthy for a long time.

Your willingness and ability to follow your antiretroviral therapy schedule exactly as prescribed is essential for successful treatment of your HIV infection. Not following your prescribed HIV therapy may cause treatment failures, such as:

In the past a person had to take many pills several times a day, which was hard for some people. But over the past few years, this routine has become much simpler, and people take their medicine only once or twice a day. With the right knowledge and tools, you can successfully take your medicine as prescribed.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What is antiretroviral therapy?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why is it important to take antiretroviral therapy drugs exactly as prescribed?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How can you take your antiretroviral therapy drugs as prescribed?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where to go from here

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What is antiretroviral therapy?

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of three or more antiretroviral drugs. It is the standard treatment for HIV infection. Antiretroviral drugs attack the virus at different stages in its life cycle. ART helps prevent HIV from multiplying and helps the immune system stay healthy.

Medical experts recommend that people begin treatment for HIV as soon as they know that they are infected.1, 2 Treatment is especially important for pregnant women, people who have other infections (such as tuberculosis or hepatitis), and people who have symptoms of AIDS.

You may also want to start HIV treatment if your sex partner does not have HIV. Treatment of your HIV infection can help prevent the spread of HIV to your sex partner.3

Before you start treatment, consider the benefits and risks and discuss all the issues with your doctor.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of three or more antiretroviral drugs to treat the HIV infection.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      In the treatment of HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) involves the use of three or more antiretroviral drugs. ART is considered the standard of care for treating HIV infection.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      In the treatment of HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) involves the use of three or more antiretroviral drugs. ART is considered the standard of care for treating HIV infection.


  2. There are several factors to consider when deciding to start antiretroviral therapy.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      You and your doctor will consider many factors when deciding whether you should start antiretroviral therapy. Some of these factors are:

      • Whether you want to start antiretroviral therapy now.
      • How badly impaired your immune system is and how rapidly it is declining.
      • How likely it is that your infection will progress to AIDS.
      • Your thoughts about the possible benefits and risks of antiretroviral therapy.
    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      You and your doctor will consider many factors when deciding whether you should start antiretroviral therapy. Some of these factors are:

      • Whether you want to start antiretroviral therapy now.
      • How badly impaired your immune system is and how rapidly it is declining.
      • How likely it is that your infection will progress to AIDS.
      • Your thoughts about the possible benefits and risks of antiretroviral therapy.

  3. My willingness and ability to take my medicine as prescribed is not a factor in making the decision to start antiretroviral therapy.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      Your willingness and ability to take your medicine as prescribed is an important factor in determining whether you should start antiretroviral therapy. It is also essential for successful treatment of your HIV infection. Some people find that taking their medicine as prescribed by their doctor is challenging. Not following your prescribed HIV therapy may cause treatment to fail, because drug-resistant strains of HIV will produce higher viral loads and the disease will progress.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      Your willingness and ability to take your medicine as prescribed is an important factor in determining whether you should start antiretroviral therapy. It is also essential for successful treatment of your HIV infection. Some people find that taking their medicine as prescribed by their doctor is challenging. Not following your prescribed HIV therapy may cause treatment to fail, because drug-resistant strains of HIV will produce higher viral loads and the disease will progress.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why is it important to take antiretroviral therapy drugs exactly as prescribed?

Complications may develop if you do not take your antiretroviral therapy drugs exactly as prescribed.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Drug resistance is more likely to occur if I do not take my drugs exactly as prescribed.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Not following your prescribed antiretroviral therapy may cause drug resistance. When this happens, the drug no longer effectively controls virus replication or protects the immune system.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Not following your prescribed antiretroviral therapy may cause drug resistance. When this happens, the drug no longer effectively controls virus replication or protects the immune system.


  2. Not taking my antiretroviral drugs exactly as prescribed will not change the effectiveness of the antiretroviral drug.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      When antiretroviral drugs are not taken exactly as prescribed, the effectiveness of the drug is decreased and drug resistance is more likely to occur.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      When antiretroviral drugs are not taken exactly as prescribed, the effectiveness of the drug is decreased and drug resistance is more likely to occur.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  How can you take your antiretroviral therapy drugs as prescribed?

In the past, a person had to take many pills several times a day, which was hard for some people. But over the past few years this routine has become much simpler. Now people take their medicine only once or twice a day. With the right knowledge and tools, you can successfully take your medicine as prescribed.

Work with your doctor when starting ART.

Keep the following in mind:

You may be able to reduce the costs of your antiretroviral drugs and other drugs.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. I need to develop a drug plan with my doctor that includes a list of all my drugs and their names, dosages, and when to take them.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      You need to develop a drug plan with your doctor that includes a list of all your drugs and their names, dosages, and schedules. You and your doctor can establish what drugs you need to take, their dosages, and when to take them. You will also need to know what other drugs to avoid.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      You do need to develop a drug plan with your doctor that includes a list of all your drugs and their names, dosages, and schedules. You and your doctor can establish what drugs you need to take, their dosages, and when to take them. You will also need to know what other drugs to avoid.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where to go from here

Now that you have more knowledge about your antiretroviral drugs and some tools to help you take them, you are ready to develop your plan for taking your drugs correctly.

Work in partnership with your doctor

If you have questions, take this information with you when you visit your doctor.

Also be sure to discuss any questions you have about your antiretroviral therapy schedule or if you are having difficulty following your drug schedule.

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents (2012). Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Available online: http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/contentfiles/lvguidelines/adultandadolescentgl.pdf.

  2. Thompson MA, et al. (2012). Antiretroviral treatment of adult HIV infection: 2012 recommendations of the International Antiviral Society—USA Panel. JAMA, 308(4): 387–402.

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents (2011). Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Available online: http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/ContentFiles/AdultandAdolescentGL.pdf.

Credits for HIV: Taking Antiretroviral Drugs

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Shalit, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised November 7, 2012

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