Starting Treatment: Robert’s Story

Robert started his HIV treatment over ten years ago and has used his experiences to provide some useful guidance below.


  • Increase your knowledge about current treatment options by exploring respected online sources of information such as the NAM aidsmap
  • Go to your appointment armed with questions about the best options for you 
  • Know what your latest CD4 cell count and viral load results are, and make sure you understand the additional tests your clinic will carry out, such as kidney and liver function and measuring your cholesterol and triglycerides. These tests can sometimes influence the treatment you begin with 
  • Get a drug resistance test before you start antiretroviral therapy (ART) to ensure you are taking medicines that are most likely to work for you
  • Know your hepatitis B and hepatitis C status 
  • Find out if the ART that is being proposed will affect any other medicines you are already talking. Make sure your healthcare team has an up-to-date list of all the medicines you are currently taking, including over-the-counter medicines and any herbal treatments 


  • Find out the potential short-term (may last a couple of weeks following initiation of treatment) and long-term side effects (may appear months or even years after treatment initiation) of the HIV treatment you are being offered1,2
  • Think about how many times a day and how many pills you would be happy to take. Would you like a single tablet or are you happy to take two or three tablets per day? 
  • Let your doctor know if you want to become pregnant now or in the future 
  • Be honest with your healthcare team about your use of alcohol or recreational drugs 
  • Ask your doctor to show you a range of possible options, then take some time out to discuss these with your healthcare team
  • Find out which treatments are currently recommended in the British HIV Association’s treatment guidelines and ask your healthcare team which options are available in your clinic


  • Find out if you need to take your HIV medicine at a certain time and if you need to take it with or without food 
  • If you don’t want to take tablets on an empty stomach or with food tell the clinic so that they can find a suitable treatment
  • Think about the strategies and techniques you can use to make sure you take your medicine as prescribed


  • Some people find it useful to fill a pill box at the start of the week. If you choose this option, keep the box somewhere you will remember
  • Get in the habit of taking your medicine alongside something else you do every single day such as brushing your teeth
  • Use a mobile phone, electronic watch, mobile phone app or an alarm to help remind you to take your medicine
  • Always have a back-up supply in your bag, in your car, or at work in case you lose or forget to take your tablets
  • If your sleep, work, or school schedule (or your responsibilities at home) interfere with taking your medicine on time, discuss this with your healthcare team. Plan ahead for weekends, vacations and other changes in your routine

  1. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. HIV Medicines and Side effects. 2018. Available at: (Accessed: August 2019).
  2. NAM Aidsmap. Side-effects. 2018. Available at: (Accessed: August 2019).
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