News • Blog
Sexual health and LGBT population
Living with HIV
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
Any medication currently available has the potential to cause side-effects – including antiretrovirals. In addition, given the individuality of each person, the potential response or undesirable reaction to a particular medication varies greatly from one to the next. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to predict in advance who will have what side effect to ONE medication…imagine the combination of THREE or more! The process still requires a certain amount of “trial and error” – Many medications currently available have no significant side effects, others have minor common side-effects while others are considered to be very problematic for many.
When taking into consideration the various potential side-effects associated with your medications, one must consider the following:
Side-effects secondary to antiretrovirals can be categorized into 3 broad groups:
There are many effective ways to "manage" side-effects, or to modify their impact on your quality of life.
Prior to commencing antiretroviral therapy ask your physician the following questions:
Speak with your physician, pharmacist or associated health-care provider regarding your side-effects experienced secondary to your medications. Quite often there is a simple and effective way to minimize the problem, if not resolve it altogether. Don’t hesitate to communicate with one of the aforementioned members of your health-care team if you are experiencing side-effects. If you are unsure – consult!
Generally, the body is able to adapt quite quickly to new medications. The short term side-effects should lessen and resolve within 4 to 6 weeks after medication initiation. This is good news!
Your medical follow-ups are extremely important when you are in the early phases of medication initiation (or when you have just changed your medication combination). There are several types of side-effects that need to be monitored closely in the first 4-6 weeks via a physical examination and/or blood laboratory tests in this adaptation period.
Typically, you will have a scheduled office visit 2 weeks after the beginning of a new antiretroviral therapy, such that blood tests can be taken in an attempt to identify problematic side-effects before they cause you a problem. If a problem is identified prior to it becoming a major complication – medication will be adjusted or replaced.
If you are in the situation where you have tried everything possible to manage a side-effect unsuccessfully and it is having a negative impact on your quality of life – speak with your physician. There may very well be a medication that could substitute for your problem ARV – It is in this manner that your therapy may need to be gradually “fine-tuned” such that it is successful and acceptable to YOU, the patient.
From time to time there are patients that will express the opinion that they felt much better prior to taking antiretroviral therapy. While it is true that certain medications employed in the management of HIV can evoke troublesome side-effects, they must be viewed in perspective. HIV that is permitted to progress to the stage of AIDS will also be fraught with symptoms and complications – often much worse than medications associated side-effects. Discuss with your physician.