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Resource Round-Up: Starting Meds for the First Time

, by Reilly O'Neal

“How am I going to fit these medications into my daily life?”

That’s one of the questions Justin Jones, manager of the Positive Force program at STOP AIDS Project, hears most frequently in his work with newly diagnosed HIV-positive men.

Fresh from October’s PLUS Seminar, Jones explains how he handles such questions:  “I recommend that guys consider their schedules and routines when choosing a regimen. For example, if an individual knows that he goes to sleep some nights at 8 p.m. and other times at 5 a.m., maybe a regimen containing Sustiva isn’t right for him, since Sustiva can cause sleepiness and trouble concentrating and is typically taken before bed. If this person’s bedtime varies by several hours, he risks missing doses, so a different regimen might be a better fit for him. It’s highly individual.”

Adds Jones, “I’m a big believer that HIV-positive people should learn as much as they can about their treatment options so they can make treatment decisions in concert with their primary care providers.” To him, this means studying up on current treatment research and following HIV news in publications like BETA and Positively Aware. “Become a partner with your primary care provider in decisions that affect your health.”

Online Resources

You may have dozens of questions when you’re first beginning treatment—or you may feel like you don’t even know what to ask. These resources from trustworthy online sources can help you get started.

  • When Should I Start Treatment & What Should I Take?
    “Learning all you can about the pros and cons of your various treatment options is your best weapon in the fight against HIV,” according to AIDSmeds.com’s user-friendly and comprehensive guide. Start here to understand your CD4 cells count and viral load, get the latest recommendations on treatment regimens, and learn how to tell whether your HIV meds are working.
  • HIV/AIDS and Its Treatment
    A glossary of key terms, a preview of your first medical provider visit, a handy chart of approved HIV medications, and tips for adhering to your treatment regimen are some of the highlights of this series of downloadable PDF fact sheets from AIDSinfo (the HIV education portal of the National Institutes of Health).
  • Making Sense of Side Effects
    This in-depth BETA article by clinical pharmacist Jennifer Cocohoba outlines known side effects of HIV meds, and shares tried-and-true strategies for avoiding or managing them. “Side effects can be unpredictable,” Cocohoba acknowledges. “Preparing yourself well to begin new antiretro­virals (and face any side effects) will give you the best possible start.”
  • Getting HIV Drugs
    Have questions about paying for your medications? This article from The Well Project outlines programs and services designed to help you get your HIV drugs, including health insurance, government-funded benefits, patient assistance programs, and clinical trials.

Reilly O’Neal is a freelance writer and former editor of BETA.


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