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HIV Treatment Decision Making

HIV antiretroviral treatment (ART) can dramatically change how you function, extending your life. But it can also affect you emotionally. Starting HIV treatment could mean you take it for the rest of your life, so you need to be prepared for that commitment. If you miss doses or stop taking the pills, HIV can become resistant, and your options become limited. Exploring how you think and feel about taking ART can help you move confidently into it. 

What do you think about taking antiretrovirals?

Taking HIV treatment is not just a physical thing. It can affect how you feel about living with HIV, your life plans and relationships. If your doctor has recommended you start treatment and you’re not so sure, exploring these questions could help:

  • Have all of my questions been answered? If not, do I feel comfortable talking to my doctor?
  • Am I ready to make a long term (perhaps the rest of my life) commitment to taking medications at scheduled times?
  • Do I believe antiretrovirals will help?
  • If I don’t believe antiretrovirals are my best option, why not? Would alternative treatments serve me better at this time?
  • Am I confident that I can take my medications every day, aiming to never miss a dose?

How do you feel about taking antiretrovirals?

  • Am I physically comfortable swallowing pills?
  • Will I change my diet, if necessary, to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment?
  • Can I deal with the possibility of several weeks of side effects if it means my health could improve in the long run? (Side effects might include nausea, headaches, diarrhea, rash, insomnia, dizziness, and more).
  • How might I feel about being reminded of HIV every day?
  • If I’m in a situation where people don’t know my status, would I be comfortable finding ways to take my HIV medications on schedule, regardless of where I am and who may be around?

Ideally, you and your doctor can talk openly about your questions and concerns. When it comes to HIV treatment, you are the one who has to take it, not your doctor. Making sure you have all the answers you want before you start and a safe and inspiring place to go for answers once you’ve started is vital. While ART is the best bet for improving your health overall, there are things you can do to improve your health if you feel you’re not ready yet.

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