Antiretroviral treatment can dramatically change how you function and extend your life, possibly into your 70s. But it can also affect you emotionally. There’s no cure for HIV, and treatment is a lifelong commitment. If you miss doses or stop taking the pills, they can stop working against HIV, limiting your treatment options. Exploring how you think and feel about taking medication can help you move confidently into it.

What do you think about taking antiretrovirals?

Taking HIV treatment can affect how you feel about living with the virus, your life plans, and your relationships. If your doctor has recommended you start treatment, but you’re not sure, think about these points:

  • Have all of your questions been answered? If not, do you feel comfortable talking to your doctor? You can always take someone with you to appointments if it would be helpful to discuss the information with them afterwards.
  • Are you ready to make a long-term commitment to taking medications at scheduled times?
  • Are you confident that you can take medications every day, aiming to never miss a dose?
  • Do you believe antiretrovirals will help? We know from years of research that they are very effective, but if you have doubts, what information would help so you can make a decision that’s right for you?

How do you feel about taking antiretrovirals?

  • Are you comfortable swallowing pills?
  • Will you change your diet, if necessary, to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment?
  • Can you deal with the possibility of several weeks of side effects if it means your health could improve in the long run? Generally, side effects don’t last long. They might include nausea, headaches, diarrhea, rash, insomnia, and dizziness.
  • How will you feel about being reminded of HIV every day when you take your pills?
  • If you’re in a situation where people don’t know you have HIV, will you be comfortable finding ways to take your medications on schedule?

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. Make sure you have all the answers you want before you start. While antiretroviral treatment is the best bet for improving your health overall, there are other things you can do if you feel you’re not ready yet.