HIV prevalence remains high in Zimbabwe, with recent statistics indicating that there are approximately 1.3 million people living with HIV in the country. In 2016, there were 40 000 new HIV infections and 30 000 AIDS-related deaths. However, there is some hopeful news amidst these worrying statistics.
By Tracey Ruff
Firstly, around 75% of adults living in Zimbabwe are on antiretroviral treatment – a number that is relatively high when compared to other countries in Africa – and secondly, international donor sources are channelling money into helping the country fight HIV.
Furthermore, almost every pregnant woman has access to antiretroviral medicines (ARVs), meaning that there is a decrease in the number of mother-to-child transmissions.
According to Avert, Zimbabwe is doing well regarding access to antiretroviral treatment (ART). It is believed that approximately 9000 people are starting ART every month and since Zimbabwe’s adoption of a ‘treat all’ policy in 2016, all HIV-positive people living in Zimbabwe should start ART, irrespective of their CD4 count.
However, Tuberculosis (TB) unfortunately remains a massive challenge in Zimbabwe. It is now the most common cause of death for HIV-positive people and Zimbabwe is ranked in the top 30 countries for TB prevalence.
Sticking to medication treatment plans is often an overlooked issue and many people do not realise how crucial medication adherence is, especially when it comes to taking ARV medication and antibiotics for TB.
There are numerous consequences, often severe, when HIV-positive patients either stop or start skipping ARVs. Since there is no cure as of yet, ARVs are for-life drugs meaning that patients need to take them daily at the same time.
If not, the virus will begin to make copies of itself again, leaving the patient with a weakened immune system and vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Skipping treatment can also lead to drug resistance where the ARVs become ineffective and stop working. And if a person with a drug-resistant form of HIV infects another person, they too will get this form of the virus and ARVs won’t work for them either.
ARVs are excellent drugs that do work and help HIV-positive people live long, healthy, productive, and normal lives. HIV is no longer a death sentence – but only if ARVs are taken properly. There are many ways HIV-positive people can remind themselves to take ARVs, but one of the most practical and easiest ways is via a smartphone medication reminder app.
MyTherapy is a medication and health tracker app that improves its users’ medication adherence significantly.
It is available for download on both the Google Play Store and the Apple Store and it is completely free, so users do not have to worry about having to pay for the download or any extra features. The app works by reminding users to take their medication on time via an alarm (which can be set to silent or vibration mode).
Users simply need to log in their respective data (medication type, dosage etc.) and set times when they need to take their medication. The app will then consistently remind users to do so. Numerous alarms can be set per day and times can be changed on weekends. It doesn’t matter how complex one’s treatment plan is: the app is designed to handle it.
The app is not simply an alarm. It comes with numerous features that help users track their progress and health at any given time. Users can record measurements (such as weight and blood pressure), track symptoms, and even record their results from the lab (such as CD4 count/ viral load). Furthermore, the app comes with two features for added privacy: users can use a passcode of their choice so that only they can access the app, and they can also choose the ‘generic notifications’ option so that when a pop-up reminder appears on their phone, the medication name won’t be displayed.
The app is simple to use and is designed to be accessible to anyone taking medication for any length of time. It is imperative that those living with HIV – or even those wanting to prevent HIV via pre- or post-prophylaxis – understand the importance of taking their ARVs every single day. And MyTherapy is the app to help do this.