For those of us living with HIV, taking our antiretroviral medication (ARVs) regularly every day is one of the most important things we can do to stay healthy. We must keep taking our ARVs even when we feel better. If we stop taking them, in time we will become sick again – and worse, the virus may have a chance to become resistant to the medication. However, remembering to take our medication can sometimes be a challenge!
Footsteps asked people living with HIV around the world to share their top tips on how they remember to take their ARVs.
‘I have been on ARVs for nine years now. I have set the alarm on my phone to remind me at 07:00 and 19:00. This is when I usually take my medication.’
‘I remember to take my ARVs by ticking the date in my calendar, which is hung on my kitchen wall, when I have taken them for the day.’
‘In the morning after brushing my teeth, I take my medication straight away. As I am part of a couple, if one of us does not see the other take their medicine, we remind the other person.’
‘I use a pill box to remind me.’
‘I set my alarm to remind me. My grandchildren remind me, and my children bring the medicine for me when it is time to take it.’
‘Rojamma [a church care giver] reminds me daily to take my ARVs. She is my neighbour. Even if she is not around, she gives me a call to remind me.’
‘Taking ARVs has become like my daily food. I take them twice a day: every morning before brushing my teeth and after meals in the evening. I put the medicines in the living room next to the TV so they are visible.’
‘I keep my medicines in the bathroom. I take them as I brush my teeth; it reminds me daily.’
‘Every day before I go to my shop I drink a glass of water, and after I return home I repeat this. This habit of drinking water was there since I started the business. After I began to take ARVs, I added them to my habit of drinking water as a reminder.’
‘Taking this medicine has become like my ID card: every time I go out I have a supply in my pocket.’
(Please note, this method is only suitable for medication that does not need to be kept refrigerated.)
‘The thought of going for lab tests and being told by health care providers that I am doing well has greatly inspired me to take my ARVs daily for six years now.’
Names have been changed to protect identities.
Reflection: How ‘my lady’ took her ARVs
by Virginia Luckett
I will never forget staying with ‘my lady’ in Cambodia on my first trip with Tearfund. She changed my life forever. I called her ‘my lady’ because I struggled to say her name in Khmer. But ‘my lady’ is a title of respect and communicates so much about her.
‘My lady’ was living with HIV. She had contracted HIV from her husband, who had died some years before. She showed me his photograph, in a frame that was lovingly decorated with paper flowers.
Every night ‘my lady’ had a ritual. In front of that photograph, by the light of a bare lightbulb in her bamboo hut, she opened her Khmer Bible and read aloud a passage. Then, very carefully, she took her ARVs. When she had taken the medication she paused silently, bowed her head and prayed.
It seemed to me that I had witnessed redemption – life in the midst of death. By bringing Jesus into her daily ARV routine, ‘my lady’ reminded herself of the truth that she was not alone. Her faith and trust were in Christ, who has saved her and goes on saving her day by day.
Virginia Luckett is an ordained vicar and is Director of Tearfund’s UK Churches team.