Linden residents infected with HIV/AIDS no longer have to travel to Georgetown to be treated with anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, says Genital Urinary Clinic (GUM), Director, Michael Ali. The pills should also be available at the Suddie Hospital, the West Demerara Regional Hospital, the Linden Hospital and the New Amsterdam Hospital.
Dr Ali could not say whether all the hospitals had everything in place but tomorrow the expansion programme will be officially launched. He told Stabroek News that two workshops were held for doctors in outlying regions, "geared to enlighten the doctors on the management of patients using ARVs..." He explained that theory alone would not be enough for the doctors as it was only when they started actually administering treatment would they be able to effectively manage patients.
It has been 18 months since the state-funded treatment programme began in the city and GUM officials have gained valuable experience to assist the other regions when they commence their programmes. "...When we expand we know what to look for, some of the potential problems and we also know what are some of the problems with the treatment." Dr Ali said his role would also be to monitor the different regions with a team monitoring the patients' charts, patient care and making sure the hospitals had adequate drugs.
Meanwhile, the GUM clinic has been seeing more patients on a daily basis and while sometimes it is hard to manage, Dr Ali said with three doctors, including himself, he hoped that they would be able to cope. Patients who are being treated are those who have moved from HIV to showing symptoms of AIDS. Dr Ali said that while they were seeing results, they needed to produce quality papers and properly documented scientific reports to say the programme was successful.
Making sure patients took their pills was key because when they felt better they were sometimes tempted to stop treatment. When they become ill again they return and have to start over.
"Sometimes they have real social and economic problems and are unable to make trips to the clinic for the replenishment of their drugs. There are others who may have mental problems, like memory problems, and more and more what we are learning is that we need to have them bring along their support (relatives or friends) so that they can understand what is going on and help the patients along for the first few months."