By Leilani Junio
HIV patients having a hard time in taking their medication regularly may soon find help through a “virtual assistant” that reminds them not to miss out their anti-retroviral treatments (ARTs) .
Through the launching of “Connect for Life” program in the Philippines, HIV patients can have the chance to receive assistance in monitoring their medication and stay healthy and fit at the same time.
Dr. Kate Leyritana, medical director of Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (Ship), said with the system, patients could be reminded of the time to take their meds.
“What happens is after you [HIV patient] get registered at the system at the clinic, and you inform your physician or the admin that ‘these are the times I take my meds, I want to be enrolled in the system,’ the system will call you at your designated times [and tell you]it’s time to take your med,” Leyritana explained.
The response can be done by pressing some options as advised by the operator.
The response will automatically appear in the clinic’s dashboard and the physician can see the patient’s progress through the “HIV adherence reminder service.”
Some colors will appear in the report, indicating if the patient took the meds (green); not reported or did not answer the call (orange); did not take meds and honest in reporting (red); etc.
The physician will evaluate if there is a need to call the patient and ask the reasons for not taking the medicines or any other related problems.
In that way, she said they do not have to wait for the patient to make a follow-up, thus reducing the incidence of resistance or mutation.
In addition, the system also gives patients the choice to be reminded to take their meds through a message. Other health tips are also available in the system.
The system will be piloted initially among identified HIV patients at the Philippine General Hospital.
She expressed hope other organizations interested in helping HIV patients will make use of the system in the aim to reach out to HIV patients.
“We’re hoping that eventually ma-pipick-out ito ng government or mai-integrate ito in the healthcare system or yung mga private institution as their ‘patients cause’... Pero, hopefully it will become a government endeavor para hindi rin mabigat sa pasyente,” Leyritana said in an interview with PNA.
According to Dr. Edsel Salvana, director of Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the National Institute of Health, University of the Philippines, the rule to be followed in taking ARTs is almost similar to taking antibiotics.
Salvana said taking ARTs should not be missed out so as not to develop resistance which could be harmful to a patient since it would be harder to find the proper ART if the immune system would no longer respond.
The “Connect for Life” started in London, then followed by India and Uganda.
“Our goal with ‘Connect for Life’ is to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and significantly reduce the incidence of the disease. Healthcare solutions and appropriate planning must be centered around patient needs,” said Dr. Erwin Benedicto of Johnsons and Johnsons during the launching.
It is significant to note that from one case in 2008 being diagnosed in a day, to 4 in 2010, 9 in 2012, 17 in 2014, at least 26 people are diagnosed with HIV in a day.
This means that in the current trend, at least one Filipino is infected with HIV in an hour.
According to the World Health Organization country profile on HIV AIDS, the Philippines had for many years recorded a low level HIV epidemic.
“From 1984 to 2006, there was a slow but steady increase. But in recent years, the number of cases detected per year has increased dramatically,” it said.
It added, according to recent estimations and projections, the Philippines has one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world, the estimated HIV incidence having risen more than 25 percent since 2001.
The Department of Health projects the number of cases could still go up as it intensifies its campaign in encouraging people to know their status by availing of the free HIV.
Data from DOH show that from January to October this year, total number of HIV/AIDS cases is 7,756. From July to October alone, cases recorded were 3,112.
From January to October, 4,113 individuals between 25-34 years old were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
HIV testing centers offer counselling and, if found positive of the virus, the patient would be provided with ART.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, attacks the person’s immune system.
HIV is found in blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal fluids. HIV in semen and vaginal fluids can be transmitted during unprotected sex.
Other ways that HIV can be transmitted is through injecting drug use and mother to child-transmission during pregnancy.