I WOULD like to respond to the article posted on May 6 entitled “HIV positive without medication” which highlighted a patient’s new health regime without HIV medication. Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) is the gold standard of HIV treatment.
While ART does not cure, it provides people with HIV to lead long and healthy lives. The World Health Organisation estimated that 21.7 million out of 36.9 million people living with HIV in 2017 were receiving ART. This resulted in a 35% decline in deaths due to HIV. Many studies have shown that HIV treatment, when taken correctly can prolong the life span of patients by 30-45 years. Another benefit is the prevention of transmission of the virus to their HIV-negative partner.
ART can lead to side effects, but they are mostly manageable. The benefits far outweigh the risk of side effects.
In Malaysia, ART is free at all Health Ministry facilities. It is very important for people with HIV who are on ART to be on long-term follow-up.
We cannot ignore the importance of mental health. There are ways to improve mental health through interactions with support groups from non-governmental organisations, meditation, yoga and psychological counselling.
I would like to stress again that the benefits of ART far outweigh its side effects and I would encourage all people living with HIV to continue taking their medicines without missing doses or stopping them all together.
Dr Chow Ting Soo
Malaysia Society of HIV Medicine