Talking Medicine: What you should know before starting on ARV treatment
Posted Monday, December 9 2013 at 00:00
World Aids day was celebrated on December 1. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness and efforts to prevent and manage the HIV/Aids pandemic.
Aids is the end stage of the disease, but some people who are HIV-positive may not necessarily develop Aids. This is possible if they start treatment early, and adhere to medication.
Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are the most common treatment used by people living with HIV/Aids.
ARVs work in the same way for instance a person with diabetes has to depend on insulin to avert a crisis.
So what are the key things a person should take note of before starting to use ARVs? Like many drugs that are taken for life, starting on ARVs requires that a person first undertakes basic tests to determine how well and healthy their kidney and liver are functioning, since these organs work to get rid of drugs among other substances from the body. Tests also help to establish the amount of blood in the body. After the tests are conducted and a person is found eligible for treatment, then adherence is another aspect that is usually emphasised. For any organism to be destroyed from the body, the medicine that a person is taking should be at its most effective (therapeutic) dose. But viruses have a unique ability to mutate extensively, and exposing them to an ineffective dose allows them to develop ways of fighting, thus resulting in resistance.
So, when a person on ARVs does not adhere to treatment, they are more likely to develop resistance to the drugs.
It is also advised that a person should not take herbal therapy alongside ARVs, and when they have to take other medications, it is important to first consult a doctor or pharmacist.
Doctors will also advise on the best foods that a person living with HIV/Aids should eat, as some foods are not considered healthy.
It is also important to report any unexpected side effects one develops when taking these medicines as soon as possible. When a person follows these guidelines, they are less likely to suffer adverse effects that come with taking ARVs, and therefore live a healthy life.
The writer is a pharmacist