More than half of people with HIV/AIDS have skipped or quit taking their medication, with some citing the drugs’ severe side effects as a reason, a survey by an HIV/AIDS civic service group showed.
The Taiwan Lourdes Association conducted a survey of 204 people with HIV/AIDS this year, of whom 83.2 percent take at least two types of medicine for treatment every day and 45.5 percent take them more than twice a day.
However, 52.6 percent of respondents said they have missed doses or stopped taking their medication for reasons including forgetting to do so because of work; losing track of time; severe side effects; eating at irregular times; and being afraid of being seen taking medication.
Yang Chia-jui (楊家瑞), an attending physician at Far Eastern Memorial Hospital’s Department of Infectious Diseases, said that about 10 to 20 percent of people with HIV/AIDS might suffer side effects — such as dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, fatigue and vomiting — from taking some commonly prescribed drugs.
The survey showed that 31.6 percent of respondents said the drugs’ side effects have affected their job performance, and 15.3 percent said they have been forced to leave or change jobs as a result.
Association secretary-general Paul Hsu (徐森杰) said that although not every person taking medication suffers from side effects, it has affected the daily lives of many who take them.
Some people with HIV/AIDS also worry that they will be discriminated against or stigmatized if people see them taking their medication, Hsu said.
Yang said that drugs for treating HIV/AIDS have been effective in controlling the virus, but if patients do not take them regularly or stop taking them altogether, their immune systems might become weaker and they might develop other complications.
Patients should discuss with their doctors if side effects from prescription drugs are intolerable, he said, adding that new first-line drugs approved since June cause fewer side effects.
Hsu suggested that patients use smartphone apps or specialized pill cases, or ask friends or relatives to help remind them to take their medication on time.
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