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HIV/AIDS Patients are living much longer. Why aren’t they all taking their pills?

Just ran across a rather startling statistic in in an article from HIV Positive Magazine: 56% of HIV/AIDS patients, who are enrolled in a Medical Management program where advisors constantly remind them to take their medications on time, are adherent. Only 38% of these patients are adherent when there is no program involved.

The “cocktail” of medications has become so effective in containing the HIV virus that patients have at least tripled their life expectance, maybe more than tipled. HIV patients used to have only 7 years of life expectancy, now it’s 24 years or more. But adherence to the drug cocktail is the key.  Dr. Dan Seekins, recently quoted in HIV Positive Magazine, says, “… it’s fair to compare HIV to diabetes. You see the same thing with diabetes as you do with HIV: people who eat right and take their medications do well, and those who don’t, don’t. So I think that’s a pretty fair analogy.”
Dr. Seekins went on to say, “Seek treatment early, be fully adherent and have a good partnership with your physician. The adherence part is absolutely critical. Studies show that patients who take their medication 95 to 100% of the time have the best prognosis. It drops off fairly sharply after that. Even after years and years of undetectable viral load, if something changes the virus can and will escape rather quickly.”
“Medications don’t work if patients don’t take them,” Dr. Seekins says. “People feel better, they’re working again and dating again, and they forget to take their pills. That’s the biggest mistake you can make.”

There’s another side to this equation: Many HIV/AIDS patients gave up hope of living out a normal lifespan, a long time back. Now, however, patients can achieve 24 additional years, and will likely soon find that they are living out the lifespan of a non-HIV person. Many of the patients in HIV/AIDS programs are in their 50s; an age most of them had not considered reaching just a few years back. Many of these programs are instructing their clients that they have to consider other diseases as they grow older. They are being counseled to eat nutritious foods and to stop smoking.

An additional element, not stated in the article, is the cost of the drug cocktail which can be as much as $3-5,000 a year. HIV positive patients need to work with the nearest AIDS clinic to where they live. There are grants available in some of these agencies.
The larger issue that we all have to face is that life is worth living and that we cannot give up hope. Our life and health is in our own hands. Medication adherence is essential and MedTexter is here to help you manage your meds.

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