What You Should Know About HIV Drug Resistance

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An image of HIV cells. Because of drug resistance, they become stronger.

How do you combat HIV drug resistance?

One of the biggest concerns for anyone living with HIV is that their strain develops a drug resistance. The virus’ unpredictability is what makes this possible. Drug resistance is when HIV cells mutate and reproduce themselves despite the presence of antiretroviral drugs (ART). It often leads to treatment failure and a further spread of drug-resistant HIV.

HIV mutates on a daily basis. Many of these mutations are harmless. In fact, most of them actually put the virus at a disadvantage. Its ability to infect CD4 cells in the body slows down. Certain mutations, however, create an advantage when medication is used. They block drugs from working against the HIV enzymes they are designed to target.

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) recently showed that drug-resistant HIV strains jumped to 10% in developing countries. In 2010, that number at 7%. Scientists are worried about this growing number. And they expect it to cause a lot more infections over the next 5 years. This is why WHO is putting together a Global Action Plan meant to combat this sudden rise.

Cutting down the development of resistance can happen in a lot of ways. HIV-positive people can reduce their risk by following these steps.

How to Prevent HIV Drug Resistance

  • Follow Instructions Carefully – Medication needs to be taken exactly as prescribed. Skipping out on doses can cause a viral load increase. Taking an incorrect number of pills can also affect a person’s viral load.
  • Stay Informed About Every Treatment Option – Knowledge is a great tool for any HIV patient. There’s great importance in learning about all the available treatment options. It can lead to finding out the best way to combat drug resistance.
  • Keep Track of the Treatment’s Effects – Closely observing lab results goes a long way. This should be done every three months. The first sign of resistance is usually an increase of viral load. So, monitoring any change there would let people know if they have anything to worry about.

Small things such as these can help prevent your HIV from becoming drug resistant. Because staying vigilant is the best way to deal with a virus unpredictable.

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The Therapeutic Effect Yoga Has on HIV Patients

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An illustration of a woman doing multiple yoga poses. These poses have proven to help HIV patients.

How much can yoga help HIV patients?

Throughout the years, many HIV patients have gotten real benefits from practicing yoga. Yoga’s a great exercise for those with HIV to consider. It’s low-impact and primarily used for cardio and core strength.

In many ways, yoga amounts to more than just another exercise regimen, though. It’s rooted in meditative beliefs, which is what sets it apart from a typical weight lifting routine. Yoga is all about fluid movements. It’s designed to make people ignore the clutter that’s happening around them. Instead, they’re told to focus on their mind, body, and soul.

Spirituality aside, practicing yoga has been proven to work for people in a variety of different ways. Here is how it can help HIV patients.

The Toll Stress Takes on HIV Patients

Stress is a big concern for HIV patients. Over time, it negatively impacts their immune system. Chronic stress can lead to an increased viral load as well as a decreased CD4 count. Yoga’s core principles are rooted in relieving stress and calming the mind.

Studies have shown just how effective yoga is at actualizing those core principles. In 2010, doctors randomly selected 60 HIV patients and put them into two groups. Over the span of 20 weeks, one group received standard care. The other group had private and group sessions with a certified yoga instructor. After those twenty weeks, the yoga group had lower blood pressure on average.

Best Yoga Methods for HIV Patients

For anyone with HIV looking to try yoga, certain precautions should be taken. Breathing normally throughout and going at a manageable pace with each pose are important. They’re what make yoga so effective at lowering blood pressure in the first place. Also, complex poses such as headstands and handstands should be avoided altogether. Most importantly, any HIV patient looking to take a yoga class should discuss it with their healthcare provider beforehand.

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Image of doctor hand on patient shoulder

Improving Linkage to Care is the Next Goal for HIV Treatment

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A doctor consoling a patient. Attention like this is important in Linkage to Care.

Here’s how to improve Linkage to Care.

Linkage to Care (LTC) is the three-month period of time between diagnosis and medical treatment for HIV. Groundwork is laid for future treatment during this time. Newly-diagnosed patients need to understand the ins and outs of their diagnosis. It’s a crucial part in such a transitional time in their lives.

Studies have shown a wide range of information regarding how many HIV patients are getting LTC. The number is often between 59% and 80%. Many consider this to be too low a number either way. This has prompted more developed nations to set their Linkage to Care rate to 90% by 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stresses the importance of providing a service built around the health needs of those living with HIV. A diagnosis of this magnitude can make a patient feel vulnerable. Consequently, WHO believes treating them with dignity goes a long way.

WHO recently gave a list of suggestions that studies suggest would help improve LTC. Here is what they find to be most helpful.

Steps to Help Increase Linkage to Care

  • Streamlined interventions to reduce the time between diagnosis and engagement in care. This includes enhanced linkage with case management and support for HIV disclosure.
  • Carrying out routine viral load testing 6 months and 12 months after Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). If the patient is stable on ART, then every 12 months would be all that’s necessary.
  • Improving the data used to identify the linkage’s quality.
  • Less frequent clinic visits for those stable on ART. As a result of ART working for them, every 3-6 months would be sufficient.
  • Programs that provide community support boosts retention in care. Methods suggested for them to use include: interventions, peer counselors, and mobile communication.

When Linkage to Care is initiated early for HIV patients, better medical treatment is possible. Increasing the amount of people who receive earlier treatment is a great first step in managing the disease.

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The Consequences of HIV Being Stigmatized

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The HIV Awareness ribbon - Stigmatized

How can HIV become less stigmatized?

 

Prevention starts with making HIV less stigmatized. Since its initial outbreak in the 1980s, this has been a major issue. While there is a complexity to this, it’s necessary to address. Getting rid of the lingering stigma will prove to benefit those living with HIV. Over the years, many studies have shown this. Two sectors where a change in procedure would benefit HIV patients most is among health care and law enforcement officials.

HIV Patients Stigmatized by Health Care Providers

Whether it’s intentional or not, HIV inhibits far too many people from accessing HIV prevention, testing, and care, even today. According to the World Health Organization, health workers in several countries have committed breaches of confidentiality.

Honesty is important in these situations. Lack of discretion limits how honest patients are. Fear is another consequence. Less testing is a result of fear. The possibility of that information being made known against their will is a big problem.

HIV Patients Stigmatized by Laws

Criminalizing HIV is another way in which the disease remains stigmatized. They have little basis. There’s very little evidence that they’ve effectively reduced HIV. Up to a quarter of these cases involve either a low or no-risk activity.

Many believe that these laws can undermine prevention efforts. If afraid, testing for HIV among people at risk will be less common. Also, laws of this nature create widespread confusion about which activities are considered high risk. People must be properly educated on HIV in order to prevent it.

Taking preventative measures in making HIV less stigmatized leads to better HIV prevention in general. Better laws could lead to better education. And training health care providers to be better equipped at handling such a sensitive situation would do wonders. Do not underestimate these factors. They can make a difference.

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What to Know When Breastfeeding With HIV

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An illustration of a breastfeeding pump.

Do you have HIV and are wondering whether or not you should be breastfeeding your child?

Unlike other principles of healthcare for babies with HIV-positive mothers, breastfeeding still does not have a consensus. There is a long list of preventative measures known to work when ensuring the baby’s long-term health. Babies born to HIV-positive mothers are put on zidovudine hours after birth. And they’ stay on it for 4 to 6 weeks. Additionally, they are tested for HIV 3 times during their first 6 months of life. Each of these measures has worked well in stopping HIV from spreading to the child. These are all agreed upon practices. Breastfeeding, however, is more complicated.

AIDSInfo and the CDC both oppose breastfeeding with HIV and suggest using formula as a healthy alternative. WHO (World Health Organization) on the other hand, insists it’s still the best option. Considering what’s at stake, it’s important to know which option is best. For that reason, here is a deeper look at what’s out there.

The Conflicted Beliefs About Breastfeeding With HIV

Those against breastfeeding with HIV are wary because the disease can potentially spread to the breast milk. There are also reports of children becoming infected with HIV after eating food previously chewed by a person with HIV. And that when given formula instead of breast milk, babies are 30% less likely to be infected. This is why many err on the side of caution.

Many studies in recent years have challenged this belief, though. They show that breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and baby. Breast milk possesses components with the ability to kill the virus. High levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the milk are associated with this reduced risk.

The wide range of positive and negative research about breastfeeding with HIV makes it difficult to reach a conclusion. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor before making any final decisions.

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