a smiling man holds up a blue HIV medication pill that is surrounded by bright lights

Ritual and PrEP

Doing anything takes practice and patience with yourself as you begin new medications. Experiences with PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), or ART (antiretroviral treatment) require taking the drugs on a consistent basis in order to be effective. This is a very tall order for people with varying degrees of life-stress and resources.

Rethinking how to form a new habit

Honestly, it can sometimes be a drag to remember to take that little pill every day. But if you don’t take it, then one doesn’t receive the benefit of reducing the likelihood of transmitting the virus or staying with an undetectable amount of virus in the blood.

Forcing one’s self to form a new habit is not fun and can be stressful. Instead of forcing the mind and body to develop a new habit, I’ve been playing with focusing on the positive aspects of the experience of taking my medication. Instead of a regimen, I like to think of it as my medication ritual.

How do we make new habits?

I have been told from a few folks that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit in your life. I thought it has to be worth trying as a strategy. So that means, for those first two-plus weeks, you’ll be super aware that you have to add taking your medication to your regimen.

Forming a habit of taking PrEP

The first trick I tried was putting the medication in an obvious place I frequent every day, the bathroom sink. I sat the pill bottle right next to my toothbrush in plain sight and first thing in the morning. After I clean my pearlie whites, I would pop my PrEP pill. It worked well for a bit and I think this is a common way a lot of people keep up with PrEP especially. So if this works for you, please continue.

Reminding myself of PrEP's purpose in my life

However, for me, it didn’t stick long term. For me, having an appreciation for something before I interact with it is important. I like to know the purpose of things before I dive into them. So I started to remind myself of the reasons why I take PrEP before I take it. I have a sense of gratitude for the benefits it offers to my health and I honor that. Just taking a moment or two to reflect on the purpose of my actions brings a moment of intention that I would otherwise take for granted.

Practicing gratitude

In a way, I create a small ritual around the medication-taking process that honors the benefits of the medication, while remembering the community of people affected by HIV that make this pill even a possibility for me. Sometimes, I say a little prayer, sing a short song, write in my journal, take a moment of silent reflection, or take the pill and go about my day. It’s nothing mysterious or scary. It’s just something that keeps me accountable, humble, and grateful for life.

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