I am a schizophrenic and have AIDS. I take so many pills to manage both these illnesses. Am I alone?
(Column: Ask the Pharmacist)
No, you are not alone. AIDS is a disease that has affected just about every social sector in our country. It is a viral infection that slowly destroys the body's immune system. Patients with mental illness are not more at risk than any other group but they do run into some problems in treatment that they need to be aware of.
While there is still no known cure for AIDS there are many treatments available that have been very successful in slowing down the progression of the disease. It is extremely important that medication be taken exactly as prescribed. Never take it upon yourself to change dosing or alter your dosing schedule. Try not to miss any doses of your medication. The AIDS virus mutates very quickly and missing as few as two doses in a row can lead to resistance.
Many AIDS patients are taking ten or more medications a day to combat the virus. Many mental health patients are also on four or five different medications in addition to their AIDS treatment. This means that it is not uncommon for an AIDS patient who also suffers from mental illness to be on fifteen different medications a day. It is extremely hard for anyone to keep track of all these medications. In addition many psychotropic drugs can cause drowsiness or forgetfulness in some patients making missed dosing a very real possibility. These patients should consult their doctor or pharmacist for ideas on how to prevent missed dosing.
Another problem is most patients are seeing different doctors, one to treat their mental illness and one to treat their AIDS infection. There are some drug interactions that do exist between psychiatric medications and AIDS medications (e.g. Norvir & Ambien). Make sure all your doctors and your pharmacist are aware of all medications you are taking so they can check for these interactions.
With proper treatment and proper patient compliance, AIDS can be successfully treated in all patients.