Before we discuss the role, part, and importance of HIV care in the society, let us first find out what it actually means. HIV care continuum is a systematic public health structure that plans the steps or procedures that HIV patients go through for a successful treatment.
Giving primary care to people with HIV requires an accurate diagnosis to achieve and maintain viral suppression, making the amount of HIV in the body undetectable. Some of the symptoms of a person with HIV are rash, swollen throat, fever, chills, and also the teeth health might deteriorate.
HIV care continuum monitors the patient’s care outcome. Thus, giving them an idea if the person is slowly adapting to HIV care. They give detailed information about the number of infected individuals on a certain HIV care continuum step, including their race, age, and gender.
Importance Of HIV Care Continuum
This kind of a public health model is essential to assess the outcome after an individual went through the designed HIV care process. It also helps in determining the number of people with HIV that need primary care in a certain community. Aside from that, the HIV care continuum also helps public service providers recognize where additional services are needed and help them devise a strategic plan to help HIV patients get support and receive HIV care treatment.
Helping people with HIV to proceed and move through the next step of the process to achieve viral suppression is crucial. HIV care treatment can be deemed successful if the patient’s viral load gets as low as possible. Once the virus becomes undetectable, the individual’s chance to live long and healthy gets higher. Getting proper HIV care and taking HIV medicine daily prescribed by the doctor will decrease the chance of transmitting the virus to others.
HIV Care Continuum Step by Step Process:
- Linkage to HIV care
- Receiving primary care or Antiretroviral therapy
- Retaining primary care/viral suppression
- Achieving target viral load and maintaining it
What Is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus or as we call it HIV is a virus that strikes cells in our body that are important in fighting infections. When this happens, the person becomes susceptible to other viruses causing infection and disease. Without proper HIV care, HIV could lead to AIDS making the virus harder to suppress. There is no known cure to HIV aside from going through antiretroviral therapy which only helps in stopping the progression of the virus. It only means that if you contract HIV, you will have the virus in your body for the rest of your life. Will you be happy living with a viral infection forever? That is why the HIV care continuum is assigned to help prevent the spread of the virus.
HIV care continuum exerts effort to make sure that HIV-positive people get antiretroviral therapy. The main purpose of this primary care is not to kill the virus in the body but rather to block its development so that it won’t be able to replicate and multiply furthermore. This treatment is known as viral suppression. It also helps in strengthening the compromised immune system and prevent the transmission of the virus to others.
There are several antiretroviral drugs used to make HIV care work. These drugs help in decreasing the amount of HIV in the body so the immune system can function well, lowers the risk of getting more infections like cancer, and improves your way of living. Listed below are the medicines used so the cells cannot make more HIV and their side effects:
- Emtricitabine– darkening skin color, headache, diarrhea, and trouble in sleeping are the most common side effects of this drug.
- Abacavir– side effects of Abacavir include trouble in sleeping and loss of appetite.
- Didanosine– didanosine on the other hand can cause diarrhea and headache.
- Tenofovir Alafenamide– this can cause cough, tiredness, and nausea.
- Zidovudine– headache, vomiting, nausea, and sleep issues are the common side effects of Zidovudine.
- Lamivudine– side effects of Lamivudine are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue.
- Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate– These medicines’ side effects are diarrhea, dizziness, and trouble in sleeping.
- Stavudine– numbing, feeling weak, and burning pain in hands and feet Stavudines side effects.
There are also other drugs used together with the above-mentioned medicines to come up with a more favorable result.
- Doravirine– causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, and headache.
- Etravirine– causes nausea.
- Rilpivirine– causes headaches and trouble in sleeping.
- Efavirenz– trouble in sleeping, dizziness, and being unable to concentrate are few of its side effects.
- Nevirapine– rash, fatigue, abdominal pain, and muscle pain are the most side effects of Nevirapine.
- Delavirdine– headache, tiredness, and itching are some of the side effects of this drug.
Always remember that your doctor will only prescribe the best-suited drug for you, most of the side effects of these drugs do not result in serious problems. However, if the effects persist and get worse, let your doctor or pharmacist know immediately.
To avoid mismatching of drugs, take the drugs according to the prescription of your doctor. Follow your medicine intake schedule strictly to get better results. Antiretroviral therapy will only work if you fully cooperate with your doctor.
Stages Of HIV And Symptoms
The occurrence of the HIV symptoms varies. Some people don’t even show any symptoms while others exhibit symptoms right away.
The first stage in acquiring HIV is called “Acute HIV Infection”. Primary care is necessary as soon as the person tested positive for HIV. At this stage, the person who got infected will most probably show symptoms after 2 to 4 weeks of contracting the virus. Flu-like symptoms will occur at this point such as;
- Sore Throat
- Night Sweats
- Muscle Pain
- Mouth Ulcers
These symptoms can last for a few days or longer. Note that these symptoms can also be caused by other types of illnesses. If you suspect that you have HIV, promptly visit an HIV testing site to receive proper HIV care. Having an accessible and easy to find HIV testing centers in a community is one of the main tasks of HIV Care Continuum.
The results of the test may take a few days and you might need to wait for a little while. Make sure to learn your diagnosis on the appointed date and time. Getting your test results on time is important in receiving primary care immediately.
The second stage is known as chronic HIV infection. At this point, the virus is replicating at a very slow phased manner. People who are in stage 2 may not feel any sickness or symptoms at all. That is the reason why most people don’t realize that they are already living with HIV. Without HIV testing and primary care, people stay at this stage for 10 to 15 years.
If at this stage your viral load increased enormously, there is a possibility that you already transmitted HIV to your sexual partner. However, if the person at this stage has received primary care as early as the virus has been detected in their body, they will not be able to transmit the virus to their partners, considering that they took HIV medicine every day as prescribed by the doctor.
The last and final stage is AIDS or the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. When people move through stage 2 without HIV care and treatment, they will most probably end up with AIDS. At this point, plenty of symptoms will start to show up and the sickness will be noticeable right away.
The following are the symptoms of AIDS:
- extreme tiredness
- rapid loss in weight
- sores and white spots in the mouth, tongue, and genitals
- memory loss
- skin bumps
Anyone can be infected with HIV. However, your lifestyle and life choices have a great impact if you are trying to avoid this virus. You will be at greater risk if you commit to unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners, or if you have an existing untreated sexually transmitted infection, and if you use IV drugs.
To avoid acquiring HIV, it’s best that we keep our health lifestyle at check, practice safe sex, and avoid getting in a situation where you will be needing a blood transfusion.