Management and Treatment of HIV

Currently there is no specific treatment available which can cure the HIV virus. If a patient is not treated they live about 9 to 12 years after contracting the virus. These years can include a lot of suffering. Part of the management of HIV is educating people on ways to prevent it.

A few key points in the management of HIV are briefly discussed:

Antiretroviral treatment

Antiretroviral treatment

Antiretroviral treatment

Antiretroviral treatment can significantly slow down the disease process. The available anti-retrovirals have improved significantly in the last 10 years. Currently, most patients can be managed by drinking one tablet at night. This one tablet usually contains 3 different types of anti-virals combined into one easy to drink combination pill. This has improved the life expectancy of patients with HIV dramatically. Anti-retrovirals stop the infection from replicating in the blood. They lower the viral load and increase the CD4 count of patients.

It is important for patients to drink their antiretroviral drugs as prescribed as resistance may develop. It is also important for people with HIV to still use condoms even when having sex with people who have HIV because there are different strains of the disease. It is also possible for one person who is not taking their medication correctly to pass the HIV resistant strain to their partner who is taking their treatment correctly.

It is best to start taking antiretrovirals as soon as HIV is diagnosed. Some people develop unwanted side-effects from treatment. In some countries the government provides antiretroviral treatment to patients who have a CD4 count which is under a certain amount.

Before starting antiretrovirals blood is taken to determine the patient’s kidney function and sometimes full blood count. Certain antiretrovirals are contra-indicated in patients with impaired kidney functions.

If antiretrovirals are taken properly, the patient can lead a relatively normal life.

     

  • Prevention of Mother to Child transmission
    There are certain programmes in place to prevent transmission of HIV from the mother to her unborn baby. This includes providing the mother with antiretrovirals and giving the baby antiretrovirals for a few weeks after birth.
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  • Awareness of Disease
    For a long time HIV had been ignored or not considered a problem but recently even governments of developing countries have begun to work towards making the public more aware of the disease in the hope of decreasing its spread.
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  • Occupational Therapy
    Occupational therapy can play a big role in helping people who have already developed symptoms from HIV. Children who are born with HIV also benefit from having early occupational therapy.
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  • Psychologist and counsellors
    Being diagnosed with HIV is a big deal and sometimes patients may need to see a psychologist to deal with their diagnosis and what it means. HIV also has many neurological and psychiatric symptoms. Psychologist and counsellors can also help the patient’s family deal with the disease.
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  • Social Worker
    Social workers play an important role in the management of HIV especially in poorer countries.
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  • General healthy lifestyle
    A generally healthy lifestyle is encouraged for people who have been diagnosed with HIV.

 

Prevention of HIV

 
As part of the management of HIV it is important to prevent uninfected people from contracting HIV. In South Africa the government has started a circumcision campaign to encourage men to have circumcisions done because this decreases the spread of HIV slightly. The best prevention of HIV is abstinence. Condoms do decrease the chances of contracting the virus. Being in a stable relationship with one partner and avoiding sex with multiple partners also decreases the chances of contracting HIV.

HIV is a big problem in some countries. Once someone is infected, without treatment they die a slow painful death. Because HIV is a sexually transmitted disease it generally affects the working class, which is also why HIV puts such a big burden on society as so many people who should be working and supporting their families are unable to because of the disease. Much research is being done on management and treatment of HIV. Campaigns are also in place to make people more aware of HIV so that it can be prevented. Although there is currently no cure, people who are started on anti-retro viral treatment do very well and their life expectancy and quality of life is greatly increased. Today HIV is no longer a death sentence if it is diagnosed and treated early.