By Lily Thatcher
So you’ve been offered antiretrovirals (ARVs) by your doctor or clinician? They have probably talked over the treatment with you: what’s involved; how long the treatment lasts; the long term prognosis; and you‘ve probably got some literature to take home with you for reading at your leisure.
Trouble is, quite a lot of the information you get fed at the appointment gets lost. You can’t remember all the details that were discussed and yet you still need to find out more. It’s probably a good idea to have a notebook and a pen to note down any questions that come to mind and then you can remind yourself to ask your doctor or support worker about them the next time you see them.
One of the most important points that you will have learned at your appointment is that for ARVs to be effective, you must be really committed to the treatment: once you start treatment you will probably have to take the medication for the rest of your life; it will also have been emphasized to you that you should not miss even a single dose; and that you must take the medication prescribed to you on time every time. The reason for this is that the levels of medication must be maintained in the body for the treatment to be effective. Missing doses or taking them at irregular intervals can impact on how well the treatment works.
Starting Your Treatment Plan
Starting your antiretroviral treatment means a whole new outlook on life and may well require a major re-think of lifestyle. It is very important for you to construct a new daily routine, based around your treatment plan. Your treatment plan will be tailored specifically to you and that includes which ARVs you are prescribed. To counter the probability of the disease building resistance to your medication, you will almost certainly be prescribed a combination of several different drugs.
There are side effects linked to all antiretroviral drugs, though this does vary from person to person. Some people find they have only very mild side effects, while others may have quite severe reactions. Common side effects include: diarrhea; nausea; skin rashes; mood changes; tiredness; losing weight from some parts of the body while gaining elsewhere. Not all side effects are continuous though and some will disappear after a few weeks of medicating, once the body has adjusted to your new regime. It cannot be stressed enough that other substances you take may cause side effects, some quite severe. It is essential that you discuss with your support worker and/or doctor any other drugs you may be taking – these may be alternative or complementary therapies, supplements, pharmaceuticals or recreational drugs. Should you need advice or help with any of the above, your doctor or support worker will have the resources available to them to support you through successfully ceasing any habitual use and ascertaining whether it is safe for you to continue using any such drugs or preparations in conjunction with your ARVs. Should you experience severe side effects which show no signs of abating your doctor can re-assess your medication and switch you to a different combination of drugs which may suit you better. Other ways of combating side effects include taking more exercise, quitting smoking or changing your diet.
Read more on Minimizing Side Effects and The Importance of Diet, CLICK HERE
Lily writes on behalf of Project Know an addiction help and research business.