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Treatment Fatigue and HIV

A key part of managing HIV is following your healthcare team’s exact direction for your treatment. One of the main parts of following your treatment plan is taking antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) every day as prescribed.1

Daily ARV use keeps the HIV virus from multiplying. This lowers the risk that the virus will become resistant to ARVs. On the flip side, not taking ARVs as recommended causes the virus to multiply. It can also cause damage to your immune system.1,2

Despite the importance of taking ARVs every day, doing so can be tiring. Some people may experience pill fatigue. For people who struggle with daily pills, there may be other treatment options.1,2

What is treatment or pill fatigue?

Treatment fatigue, also known as pill fatigue, refers to feeling drained by having to take ARV pills every day. Because of pill fatigue, some people struggle to stick to their treatment plan.1,3

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Pill fatigue often happens over time, even for people who started out feeling fine with taking daily pills. Factors that can make pill fatigue more likely to happen include:1,3

This or That

Are you dealing with treatment fatigue right now?

Long-acting injectables for managing HIV

Long-lasting injectable antiretroviral therapy (ART) may be an option for some people with HIV. These drugs are also called long-acting injectables (LAIs). They work the same way as ARV pills. But they are given as an injection every few weeks or months.3-5

Some studies have shown that LAIs are a more effective treatment for people with pill fatigue. This is because the participants in the studies were better able to follow their treatment plan. Studies also show that LAIs are a good option for teenagers. Teenagers may be more likely to struggle with pill adherence.3-5

Pros and cons of injectables

The biggest benefit of using LAIs is convenience. You do not need to take a pill every day, so you need to think about treatment only every few weeks or months. However, if you skip an injection, your viral load can increase. So you still must follow your treatment plan exactly as prescribed.1-3

There can be some downsides or barriers to getting LAIs. These may include:2,3

  • Cost – LAIs may cost more than ARV pills.
  • Insurance coverage – Some insurance plans may not cover LAIs.
  • Travel – Some people may find it inconvenient to go to their healthcare provider’s office every few weeks or months.
  • Needles – Some people may not be comfortable with needles or injections.

Other ways to manage pill or treatment fatigue

If LAIs are not right for you, there are other ways to manage pill fatigue. Here are some tips that might help:1

  • Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
  • Use a pill reminder app on your phone.
  • Make taking your pills part of your daily schedule. For example, take your pill right after another daily action, like having coffee.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help. Have them remind you or check in about whether you took your pills.

Reach out to your doctor about other options for treating HIV. And never stop taking any HIV treatment without first talking with your doctor.1,2

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