Although there is currently no cure, pharmacological advances have allowed people with HIV/AIDS to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. The medication regimen known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) or combination drug therapy has the potential to prolong life through suppression of viral replication if adherence is maintained at a satisfactory level. Failure of medication treatment adherence can have devastating results, including continued replication of the virus, weakened immune system function, and increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections that could potentially lead to death. Furthermore, failure to follow the medication regimen as prescribed may lead to the production of mutant, drug-resistant strains of the virus that pose a public health threat if spread to others.
Given the potentially harmful consequences of non-adherence, alarming numbers of people are managing medications ineffectively. This presents a challenge to develop effective means of establishing a knowledge base and necessary skills to follow through with treatment adherence as well as establishing a lasting desire to pursue optimal health. Adherence is not a simple issue of taking medication as scheduled; rather, researchers have begun to respect adherence as influenced by a complex network of intertwining personal, social, environmental, and cultural factors that should be considered in the development of effective interventions.
Fulfilling the expectations of daily life, including work, school, and family, can be challenging when faced with following complicated medication regimens with special instructions and harsh side effects. It may be unrealistic to assume that medications should take highest priority while life roles take the back seat. It is important to encourage people with HIV/AIDS to seek wellness through examination of personal attitudes and habits related to medication treatment adherence. Likewise, it is important to empower clients to take control of their health through knowledge, establishing realistic goals, effective communication, and building lifelong habits and routines that incorporate medications. Establishing a base of knowledge and skills development will facilitate more educated decisions regarding personal medication treatment adherence.