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“Global solidarity, resilient services” – World Aids Day 2020

Driving Healthcare Innovations

By Lahiru Rukshan on December 1st, 2020

HIV/AIDS was first discovered in the early 1980s and since then has caused over 32 million deaths globally. As of 2020, over 38 million people are living with HIV around the world. On 1988, the World Aids Day was designated to December 1st to raise awareness around the world.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

Firstly, it is important to understand what HIV is. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV, is an incurable virus that attacks the cells that help in the body’s fight against infection. This makes the person more vulnerable to contracting other diseases (tuberculosis, water-borne diseases etc.). HIV is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood (used syringes) and during unprotected sex.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS, is the late stage of HIV that develops as a result of the immune system being badly damaged. Once HIV progresses into the AIDS stage, a person has about 3 years to survive.

In a nutshell, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, neither of which seem to have a cure so far. Populations living with HIV/AIDS in the developing world are at wider risk from other infections due to poor education and sanitation. 

Can HIV progression to AIDS be stopped?

To a certain extent, yes. Medication such as antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps slow down and stop HIV from progressing into AIDS. With ART, HIV patients can live longer and even protect their partners from accidental transmission. Thanks to advance medical breakthroughs such as ART, very few people around the globe have progressed into AIDS. Hence the saying “living with HIV”.

How Do I Know If I Have HIV/AIDS?

HIV cannot be easily transmitted contrary to popular belief. Testing is the only way to find out. Usually testing requires a visit to a hospital but thanks to improvements in technology, home based testing kits are widely available at pharmacies. And with the Covid-19 pandemic in full force, self-testing seems to be the only responsible option. 

Symptoms

Most of the symptoms are similar to flu-like symptoms, but some people may not feel any of the below symptoms despite contracting the HIV infection.

  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes

HIV/AIDS in the time of Covid-19

As outlined by Covid-19 guidelines, any person with underlying health conditions should take extra effort to protect themselves from Covid-19. This includes those living with HIV or AIDS.

  • Those with advanced HIV should follow Covid-19 guidelines to the dot (Sanitizing, Social Distancing, etc.).
  • It is important that HIV patients have an uninterrupted supply of ART (90-day supply) and other medications.
  • Flu and other vaccinations should be kept up-to-date.
  • In case the doctor switches the HIV medication regimen, it is advisable to delay it and continue with the normal regimen.
  • Continue taking HIV medication even after a Covid-19 diagnosis.

How Can Technology Help?

Maintaining electronic health records via an accessible cloud based database such as VIDA+, can help healthcare workers from different regions of the world to coordinate and update patient status, share trends of worldwide HIV/AIDS rates, and introduce experimental medication.

Conducting Telehealth activities such as self-testing over video/voice chat with HIV testing counsellors and doctors, have proven to be effective and inexpensive especially during the times of Covid-19.

Even simpler m-Health technologies such as text messaging (SMS) or WhatsApp to remind HIV/AIDS patients (especially the elderly) to take their medication and schedule appointments with the doctor have proven to be helpful.


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