The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a public health issue of concern. To commemorate the 2020 World AIDS Day, the media team of the Young Pharmacists’ Group (YPG) Cross River state, headed by Pharm. Ama Ekanem, paid a visit to the Chairperson of the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPS), Pharm Ema Ebong, and the Chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm.(Dr). Effiong Ekpenyong Eteka.
What can you tell us about HIV/AIDS?
HIV is a major public health issue that was declared a pandemic some years back, though some organizations still recognizes it as a pandemic, WHO sees it as a global epidemic because of the progress in managing the virus so far.
In Cross River state and some other states, USAID through FHI360 and HUGGINS in collaboration with the Nigerian government have played key roles in prevention, access HIV testing, care, and treatment to stop the spread of the virus and meeting the 90-90-90 goals.
How can HIV/AIDS be transmitted?
Infected blood, semen/ vaginal fluid, and breast milk are the 3 major bodily fluids involved. There are occupational exposures, for example, in the hospital setting, HIV is transmitted mostly through needle prick from an infected patient. For non-occupational exposure, unprotected sex and other means that expose another human to these bodily fluids can lead to transmission.
How do patients remain compliant to their drug regimen alongside other associated diseases they may present with?
Initially, HIV medications were manufactured in single doses and this resulted in an increase in pill burden on the patients. Now, due to new innovations in drug designs, these medicines have been manufactured into fixed-dose combinations containing all the medicines from the patient’s regimen instead of in single doses as before. This change has improved adherence to medications. Regular enhanced counseling and checkup have also played a role.
What roles can Pharmacists’ play in curbing HIV/AIDS incidence?
The role of the pharmacist cannot be overemphasized; Pharmacists play a key role in optimizing HIV treatment outcomes through various ways such as drug monitoring patient care, generation of data for drug policy making etc. Pharmacists are the custodians of medicines, they are responsible for making sure that medications are available at safe and affordable rates. Also, the Pharmacist ensures that the patients are adherent to drug regimens by providing monitoring services.
What is your advise to people living with HIV?
It can affect anybody, so everybody has to be careful. However, it isn’t a death sentence, it is just like any other disease that can be managed if the patient adheres strictly to their drugs and avoids other things that may hinder their medication action. Eat healthy nutritious food, maintain good hygiene, exercise, and go for regular check-ups. Avoid excessive lifestyle, Pray, don’t transmit, stay safe.
Are there policies that are enacted to end the HIV epidemic?
The policy that has been crystallized to ending the epidemic is the 90-90-90 eradication approach which states that;
* By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
* By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
* By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
What roles can Pharmacists play in curbing HIV epidemic?
Pharmacists are important in the area of providing testing services, this is in addition to guiding HIV treatment, and refilling medications. Encouraging patients to adhere to their medicines is another area where pharmacists are participating, they can promote the removal of stigma associated with the disease.
What is your advice to those living with HIV?
HIV is not a death sentence, much effort has been put in place to make it “just another disease”.
If you tested positive, begin treatment, and go for continuous testing to ensure your medication regimen is effective. Adhere to your medicines to get the best out of them, viral load can be suppressed to a minimum when medications are adhered to.