HIV-infected with low viral load have similar quality of life as gen pop: Study

·Senior Editor
·3 min read
A Taiwanese mother and her daughter attend an AIDS awareness rally December 1 in Taipei. Many experts have warned that women in East China are particularly vulnerable to contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). TAIWAN AIDS
A Taiwanese mother and her daughter attend an AIDS awareness rally December 1 in Taipei. Many experts have warned that women in East China are particularly vulnerable to contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). TAIWAN AIDS

A new online survey in Taiwan of HIV-infected individuals with a low viral load says that they have a similar health-related quality of life (HRQOL) as the general population.

The online survey, conducted by Gilead Sciences, Inc. between July and October 2021, interviewed 120 virally suppressed people living with HIV (PLWH) in Taiwan and compared their self-reported HRQOL with that of the general population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), viral suppression is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood. Some individuals' viral load is so low that it cannot be detected by a test.

The study measured their quality of life according to the EQ-5D-5L questionnaire, a standardized model that evaluates five dimensions: mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort and anxiety/depression. Respondents generally reported high levels (median 80 per cent) of self-perceived HRQOL.

Detailed evaluation revealed higher levels of HRQOL in mobility, self-care and usual activities (such as carrying out duties at work, doing household chores and participating in leisure activities), while HRQOL was less optimal in the areas of pain/discomfort as well as anxiety/depression.

"Self-reported outcomes by PLWH in our survey show that they can enjoy a similar quality of life to those without the disease. This is remarkable and an encouraging call for the clinical community to support their clients to achieve success in viral suppression," noted Dr Chien-Yu Cheng, co-author of the study and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Taoyuan General Hospital.

Dr Cheng noted that while feelings of stigmatization have made individuals with HIV reluctant to disclose their condition publicly, the "high efficacy and improved tolerability of HIV treatments in recent years" means the disease can now be viewed as a chronic condition.

The findings will be presented at the virtual Asia-Pacific AIDS and Co-Infections Conference (APACC) 2022, taking place from June 16-18.

HIV in the Philippines

Volunteer medical technologists speak to students about a free HIV testing program, at the State University in Manila on September 13, 2019. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MARIA TAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Volunteer medical technologists speak to students about a free HIV testing program, at the State University in Manila on September 13, 2019. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARIA TAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Philippines, the National Library of Medicine - the world's largest biomedical library - warned in November 2021 that the HIV crisis in the country worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Even before the pandemic, the Philippines has already had an HIV crisis. It had the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the western Pacific region between 2010 and 2017, where a 174 per cent increase in HIV incidence was noted," wrote Rowat Alibudbud of De La Salle University.

Alibudbud noted that in 2020, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that HIV testing decreased by 61 per cent. However, the average number of people newly diagnosed with HIV per day had only decreased by about 37 per cent, from 35 a day in 2019 to 22 a day by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, only 61 per cent of Filipinos living with HIV were on antiretroviral therapy in 2020. Compounding this problem was the decrease in HIV treatment initiation by 28 per cent.

"The worsened HIV crisis may be a result of the lower accessibility, delivery, and financing of HIV-related health services and programs in the community during the pandemic," said Alibudbud.

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