THE United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) says it was critical to ensure the HIV viral load is suppressed under the prevailing global health crisis where majority of health services have been interrupted.
By Michael Gwarisa
PEAPFAR recently published guidelines to ensure continuous and effective HIV and AIDS treatement and care under the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
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According to PEPFAR, evidence on the impact of COVID-19 amongst PLHIV was still scarce and there is currently no direct evidence that people with HIV are at higher risk of COVID-19, or of severe disease if affected.
HIV virological suppression is a critical intervention that improves the health of all PLHIV,and PEPFAR is committed to ensuring that PLHIV have uninterrupted care. Currently, there is no known effective treatment for COVID-19.
“We discourage the use of experimental therapies outside of registered clinical trials, as they may be dangerous. Drug-drug interactions with ART and other HIV related therapies may pose risks for our PLHIV clients,” said PEPFAR.
PEPFAR added that they remain committed to continuing essential HIV prevention and treatment services, while maintaining a safe healthcare environment for clients and staff even during the pandemic.
“In order to meet our commitment to uninterrupted care and treatment for PLHIV and the prevention of deaths among PLHIV due to HIV associated co-morbidities, PEPFAR is committed to adapting HIV services, so that PLHIV have the best possible outcomes within the context of stretched healthcare systems.”
According to PEPFAR, continuity of treatment for PLHIV forms the foundation of PEPFAR programs during the COVID-19 pandemic and several strategies are available in the new guidance document.
“Multi-month dispensing and decentralized delivery of medication form the basis of the PEPFAR strategy to maintain PLHIV on ART. PEPFAR-supported cadres should follow host government guidance on home visits and avoid unnecessary in-person interactions with clients in facilities and communities to reduce exposure to, and spread of, COVID-19.”