Posts Tagged ‘adherence’

At the beginning of the year I did something that my parents continued to oppose and forbid me to do. Well during Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend after spending some time to reflect on the New Year in my hometown of Hampton, Virginia I drove back up to Maryland and did it. No I didn’t partake in an orgy, decide to binge on a buffet or go on a shopping spree. Instead I picked up a bundle of joy, my puppy I later named Cocoa.

Cocoa

Cocoa

You see in the beginning of the year I was alone, down in the dumps and struggling with work. I can candidly say that at the same time I began to realize that it was harder to get up in the morning or even feel motivated to faithfully go to the gym. All of this began to take a toll on me caring about my adherence. So I knew something had to be done to address this issue. There are definitely plenty of reasons my little Miniature Pincher has helped me deal with my PTSD and also keep my life interesting.

Every morning I wake up to being barked or talked at, nudged, or on rare occasions a foul smell. The majority of the time I am working simply by her moving or nudging me and I immediately know it is time to wake up and give her a good walk. Our morning 1-3 mile walk does not necessarily only help her. By walking with her in the morning I have the ability to be physically active, have some time without my iPhone to critically think and most importantly get out of bed regardless of how I feel and be productive. Cocoa also plays a role in me taking my medication. Around 8pm on most nights I feed her and afterwards she sits at the edge of the kitchen staring at me. The moment I give her eye contact she immediately looks towards the fridge. You see I keep some of her dog treats on top of the microwave next to my pill bottles. On top of that surprisingly when I have horrible nightmares she wakes me up.  Cocoa also is the perfect cuddle buddy and keeps me warm on cold nights. This has been a perfect partnership to keep me adherent and happy. Little does she know how big of a role she plays in my life.1517595_10152348101883522_4986122712107354650_n

Pets can be a great responsibility and come with additional expenses but nothing can replace the love coming from them. Cocoa brings tremendous joy into my life. Her silly expressions and creepy stalker ways always keeps a smile on my face. Many of my friends and colleagues I work and advocate alongside constantly comment or mention my dog and how I am always talking about her via social media. To be honest she definitely works my nerves when she pees or poops in the house of gets carsick and throw up in the car; however, at the end of the day when we lock eyes or I walk into the door after a ten hour day or week away at a conference she greets me with unconditional love. This love alongside the love of my family and friends is what keeps me going on those very hard days.

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“Wait a minute did I take my meds?” This is a question I often ask even if my pill box, mobile application, or friend says I have. Anxiety, nervousness, fear, and due diligence keep me on track to continue to the best of my ability to take my medications faithfully. For me the process of taking my three medications everyday at 9 am is an experience both with and without emotion.  Every time I swallow my pills, I am reminded that HIV is living inside me.

What Motivates Me (Inside and Out)

According to the CDC, one in four people living with HIV have achieved viral suppression. In other words, three out of four people living with HIV in the United States have either not connected to care or do not adhere to their medication to achieve viral suppression (meaning they have a very low level of HIV in your blood). And while that doesn’t mean I’m cured, by lowering the amount of virus in my body with medicines can keep me healthy, I am able to live longer, and significantly reduce chances of passing HIV on to others. To ensure that I have a great future is the motivating factor behind me staying focused on taking my medication as prescribed. I am proud that to I’m able to maintain my undetectable viral load while increasing my CD4 count/percentage. Seeing those lab results helps to show improvement and reward my diligence of staying on track.

Many people may be surprised when I use rewards to treat my success of staying adherent. Giving myself a pat on the back in the form of something that I enjoy gives me a goal to work toward.  I call myself a “cheatatarian,” because I tend to often sneak out of my vegetarian diet. My love for chicken sandwiches and seafood is ridiculous; therefore, when I stay adherent without any issues for the month I reward myself by going to my favorite restaurant and having some of those foods (in moderation of course)!

A good physical, mental, spiritual, and organizational balance also helps me stay adherent to my HIV meds. Even with my busy schedule running Pozlifeofpatrick Exit Disclaimer, going to school, and managing my professional duties, I always make personal quiet time. That “quiet time” might be playing my favorite game, training for my upcoming marathon, and video chatting with a friend or mentor. And while these activities aren’t necessarily “quiet”, the silence comes in being able to separate out the stressors of the blog, school, and work. This helps me slow down and take the time to focus on my medications.

Helpful Tools (Online and Off)

Tools like pillboxes and mobile applications can also help to remind people to take their medications. Personally, I use Care4Today Exit Disclaimer which alerts me to take my meds and helps me chart my adherence.  When I am out of town, it reminds me on east coast time (and even asks me to change the time zone). But the feature I find most helpful, is that it notifies providers or family members if I have not taken my medication. There are many online tools and applications like Care4Today,including pill monitor Exit DisclaimerThebody.com’s personal reminder service Exit Disclaimer, and RxmindMe Exit Disclaimer that have similar functions. All can be helpful for people who need a reminder or that will check in with a support person when/if you miss a day. Offline, I take extra care to ensure that I have my HIV medication located in my bag that I take everywhere (in a nice discreet carrier). This helps me just in case if I am in a rush and totaly forget about my medications.

Finding out what motivates you to stay adherent, along with a system that fits with your lifestyle, is the key. If you are living

– See more at: http://blog.aids.gov/2014/05/black-voices-wait-a-minute-did-i-take-my-meds.html#sthash.4MlQhK0f.dpuf