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New US guidelines highlight importance of primary care for PLHIV

Wednesday, 20 November, 2013

Guidelines on how to care for people living with HIV (PLHIV) will be changed in the United States to reflect the fact that for many, HIV is now a manageable chronic illness. The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) are advising physicians to concentrate on preventative health, particular for screening of common problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes and osteoporosis. They have also highlighted the need for HIV specialists and primary care physicians to be aware of the dynamic healthcare needs of PLHIV, which these guidelines will hope to make clear.

Antiretroviral treatment means that PLHIV can manage their illness, and live long and healthy lives – as long as they are accessing healthcare services, are adhering to treatment, and have a relatively healthy lifestyle. However, the fact that PLHIV are now growing older is presenting new challenges for ensuring they remain healthy. Managing non-communicable diseases, and other non-AIDS defining illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, kidney and liver failure are particular challenges. This issue was highlighted in a recent UNAIDS report, which was reported on by AVERT last month.

The new guidelines state that primary care is the key for managing the healthcare needs of people living with HIV. Lead author of the guidelines, Dr Judith A. Aberg stated: “HIV specialists need to provide the full spectrum of primary care to these patients, and primary care physicians need a better grasp of the impact HIV care has on routine healthcare.” With 1.2 million people living with HIV in the US, and 500,000 people newly infected, clarification on how to help PLHIV in the country live long and healthy lives is crucial.

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