Treatments Treatment Adherence

HIV/AIDS Treatment Adherence

In order for anti-HIV drugs to work correctly, they must be taken exactly as prescribed.

Skipping doses or not taking the medications correctly can cause the amount of an antiretroviral drug to decrease in the bloodstream. If the drug level becomes too low, HIV can begin reproducing more quickly. The faster HIV reproduces, the more mutations occur, including those that may be resistant to drugs. When a patient becomes resistant to a drug, the medication is no longer effective, even if it
is taken in the future. As a result, patients have fewer treatment options.

According to several studies, HIV patients must be more than 95% adherent to their treatment plans in order for them to remain effective. This means that missing more than one dose per month may reduce the drugs’ effectiveness.

Healthcare providers evaluate treatment effectiveness by measuring CD4 cell counts in the patient’s blood. These immune cells are the primary targets of HIV. If the CD4 cell count is maintained, the likelihood of the virus mutating into resistant strains is decreased. HIV patients who are otherwise healthy and symptom-free should have their CD4 cell count and viral load tested about 2-4 times a year. However, symptomatic patients should be tested more frequently to evaluate both the risk of opportunistic infections and the response to HIV drug treatments.