COVID-19 infection turns fatal for an HIV patient

 

Our mission is to save lives but the reality is, sometimes, we have to witness deaths despite all efforts. To see patients bounce back from critical health conditions is one of the most rewarding moments for us, especially for our outreach workers who closely monitor the health and progress of HIV patients for weeks and months until they fully recover. At times, the patients we connect with are already at an advanced stage of the disease or have developed co-infections and complications that all our efforts fail to save them.

For instance, a 50-year-old man had come to see the doctor at Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Center located in Delhi’s AIIMS hospital. ART Centres are part of a government run HIV programme that provide HIV testing and treatment services free of cost. Our 300+ Care and Support Centres spread across the country, work closely with the ART Centres to provide HIV testing & treatment related linkages and support services with the goal to improve the overall health and quality of life for people living with HIV.

We reached out to help the 50-year-old male patient who had come alone and was visibly struggling to keep it together. The patient had been diagnosed with HIV in a private hospital and then referred to ART Centre located in AIIMS. He had fever, weakness and overall poor health condition and needed urgent medical attention. We supported the patient with the process to see the ART Centre doctor who after examination referred the patient to the emergency department where he was suspected of COVID-19 infection. We then helped him navigate the hospital to go to the COVID-19 department for the COVID-19 test. When the reports came positive the patient was admitted to the COVID-19 ward at AIIMS. Immediately, we informed his family and updated them about his health status. Bit there was little the family could do to help him at this point.

We checked on the patient daily and provided him with basic needs like food and water. However, on the third day, the patient lost his battle against HIV and COVID-19 and breathed his last. Yes, HIV is still claiming lives but now with the COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of people living with HIV are at increased risk due to the immunocompromised state from HIV. To mitigate these risks and challenges, we have to strengthen nutritional intake, treatment access, awareness and access to COVID-19 vaccination, promote health-seeking behaviour, provide gender-responsive and age-appropriate sexuality education and address social inequalities that create obstructions for people from accessing healthcare services.

For this reason, our programmes, wherever possible, take an integrated approach to support HIV patients. Saving lives is not only about helping patients to get treatment and medicines, it is about going beyond medical aid to provide an enabling, stigma-free and safe environment through the provision of livelihood skills and opportunities, access to civic rights, empowerment with appropriate knowledge and information to make decisions, and psychosocial support to manage challenges. We cannot afford to lose sight of a single factor when on a mission to save lives.

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