I‘ve been reflecting on the past 20 years of taking my HIV meds……. It was fairly simple in the early days – there was just one – an AZT bottle!
Overtime, many more new options came along – sometimes, three, four or more drugs and dozens of actual pills: some to be taken at specific times and others with or without food etc. I used to have the bottles lined up in a row and started to work my way along the line. There were occasions when I lost track – taking the pills so regularly each and every day meant that it was hard to actually remember which pill I had just that minute swallowed. I also found that it was difficult to keep on top of getting new supplies to prevent the drama of running out of meds.
My saviour was the dosette box! Yes, it was the size of a ream of A4 paper and took up half a shelf in the fridge, but it sure was a great help to me. Once a week I would sit down with all the med bottles and fill up each compartment of the dosette box – this also made it easier to spot when I was running low on meds and acted as a reminder to get the next script filled. However, the best part was that it really kept me on track with taking my meds each day. If I couldn’t remember taking the meds on any particular day it didn’t matter: if the pills were not in the box, then I had definitely taken them. Conversely, some nights I went to bed only to lay there worrying if I had taken the evening dose. A quick look in the fridge and in the dosette box gave me the answer!
Of course this doesn’t work for everyone – friends of mine have used reminders programmed on their mobile, set alarm clocks, put pills out on a dish by their bedside – whatever works for you, just do it!
Today’s HIV meds are a whole lot easier to manage – many people need only take one pill a day. However, the same applies today as has always – the meds are not going to do you any good staying in the bottle. The benefits of getting to undetectable (or close to) are so important to your ongoing health and we are so fortunate to have access to meds here in Australia that many of our fellow PLHIV living around the world are denied.
Sure, becoming positive is a real challenge – taking meds each and every day is something that most of us have never faced before (and many people in ordinary life struggle with just completing a short course of antibiotics!). However, the benefits are there in our hands – if we simply use a method that fits our own particular lifestyle/ personality/ living circumstances etc – to ensure we take our HIV meds every day.
Good luck with you journey – you are not alone.
PS that dosette box is still in my fridge!
Published for Talkabout Online #184 – October 2015