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LIFE ON ARVs

Dr Boima
HEALTH ISSUES

It would seem most people who are on ARVs or taking care of relatives on ARVs know how they should be taken or their importance, but this is not the case.

Otherwise we would not be having cases of ARVs taken with alcohol, children who are born HIV positive, treatment failure and deaths while on treatment.

ARVs are not curative! But if taken properly they should be able to significantly improve quality of life, prolong life and prevent avoidable deaths from opportunistic infections.

Anyone starting ARVs should be ready for them and be willing to remain on them for the rest of their life. They should be committed and be able to practice restraints. The initial consultation where a patient together with a treatment-partner undergo HAART initiation counselling prepares the patient and their relatives for life on ARVs. 

In this session, education is shared regarding HIV, AIDS, ARVs, opportunistic infections and other issues surrounding the diagnosis and treatment. If the patient has pending issues that still need to be sorted out they should not be forced treatment. The hallmark of antiretroviral therapy is remaining on it rather than starting one.

It is not an emergency to start ARVs unless the patient is severely ill!!

Things to do?

*ARVs should be taken every day at the same time for the rest of one's life

*Safe sex – to prevent re-infection, spreading HIV and other STIs and unnecessary pregnancies

*Know medication by name – to be able to pick wrong prescriptions and be a assisted anywhere when in need of emergency refills

*Always turn up for appointments – (consultations, refills, bleeding, counselling etc)

*Continue healthy diet and exercise (ARVs are not a substitute for healthy living)

*Annual Pap smear for females- HIV positives are at increased risk of cervical cancer than their HIV Neg counterparts

What not to do?

*Stop medications for any reason including religion. If in doubt or you think you are experiencing side effects rush to the nearest clinic

*Share medications – it is a norm in our society to share medications for any other condition but when it comes to ARVs this should be totally discouraged. As much as ARVs are helpful they can be very toxic in the body if they are taken by a person other than the one they were prescribed for

*No alcohol – being intoxicated can make one forget to take their medications as instructed, indulge in reckless behaviour and affect the patient's liver (where ARVs are metabolised hence they wouldn't be able to work or be cleared efficiently)

*No smoking – HIV positives are at increased risk of getting TB so smoking will only help to multiply that risk

*No traditional medicines – melemo ya setswana can reduce or increase effect of ARVs in the body and further damage the patient's liver and kidneys

For comments and questions email agboima@yahoo.com
 

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