PLHIVs Should Worry About contracting COVID 19?

Monday, July 24 2020 | Article | 1283 | Dewi Utari

In a discussion through social media and focus group discussions (FGD) among people (living) with HIV AIDS or PLWHA, since the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic in Indonesia, there is a big question in their minds. The question is concerned with anxiety because they read a lot of news and listen to advices that are doubtful. The question they asked most often: "With this PLHIVs status, am I definitely infected with the corona virus? Can I die immediately if there are 2 types of dangerous viruses in my body? Is it true that PLHIVs are most vulnerable to COVID 19? "

To answer these worrying questions, we need truthful information that is reassuring for PLHIVs friends. Based on the research and experience of various cases, what is burdensome for sufferers of COVID 19 is comorbidities. In the context of HIV AIDS, it is called an opportunistic infection (OI). COVID 19 comorbidities that aggravate the condition of the patient i.e if the patient has previously suffered from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, diseases related to the lungs, cancer, and auto-immune / immune disorders. Indeed, HIV AIDS is classified as an immune disorder, so for people living with HIV AIDS it is advisable to continue to maintain immunity by not breaking up taking ARVs and living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to increasing CD4, during this pandemic also to prevent the possibility of PLHIVs contracting COVID 19. Running a healthy lifestyle means consuming healthy food and drinks, washing hands with soap, wearing a mask that does not change with others when they have to leave the house or meet other people, and keep your distance. This is in order to prevent PLHIVs from contracting other viruses, including the corona virus.

This kind of information about protection for PLWHA not to be infected with COVID 19 is needed for those who do not access social media and internet at any time. Therefore, together with the HIV AIDS care network, CD Bethesda YAKKUM has been active since late March and early April 2020 till now, not only through social media but also leaflets / flyers and facilitators opening long-distance telephone consultation services. Besides holding 8 Puskesmas and 2 Hospitals in the City of Yogyakarta to continue to serve the health and counseling of PLHIVs and ARV services for PLHIV (4 of 8 Puskesmas work partners), remembering that some of them experience anxiety and fear. For in the Belu district of East Nusa Tenggara, CD Bethesda took 7 Puskesmas and 1 Hospital. The AIDS Care Citizens Group (or WPA – warga peduli AIDS)  is also equipped with the right information, so that in assisting PLHIVs and their families able to support and deliver appropriate and soothing education.

Not only that. To support PLHIVs having knowledge on how to improve their endurance, the CD Bethesda and its network in the city of Yogyakarta (Health Office, Victory Plus, Kebaya Foundation, KDS Metacom, KDS Violet, WPA, KDS Diajeng, Dimas, and Srikandi Lintas Iman) produced video tutorials to make herbal drinks and reflexology that can be done independently by PLHIVs. These educational videos are distributed through the social media of each institution and community, so that fellow PLHIVs can easily practice it themselves when they feel their bodies begin to weaken and become less fit. These videos are not limited to being distributed in the city of Yogyakarta, but also reach out to fellow PLWHA in other regions as far as East Nusa Tenggara, the area supported by CD Bethesda.

In addition to endless education, CD Bethesda also provides assistance to served PLHIVs in the form of masks, milk, multivitamins, and wedang uwuh (herbs drink), while WPA is given instant herbs, wedang uwuh, and masks. Providing this assistance to respond to their difficulties at the beginning of the pandemic accessing consumption nourished food and drink that enhance immunity and self-protection equipments in the form of masks, where masks had become a rare item. Over time, PLHIVs are empowered to work on self-protection tools from the risk of transmission and practice healthy lifestyles armed with the knowledge they get.

Returning to the initial question that they had asked all the time, was it necessary for them to worry if COVID 19 was increasingly undermining the health defenses of PLHIVs, the answer was in the PLHIVs themselves. As long as they diligently consume ARVs, live healthy lives and are aware of how to protect and understand their bodies, of course those worries are eliminated as much as possible. Do not forget to think optimistic and positive, they really need it so that their body's immunity against the virus is getting better. This is where the role of CD Bethesda YAKKUM together with its network is needed, assisting PLHIVs and residents who become their support systems to motivate each other to be able to prevent transmission. COVID 19 is indeed not over yet, but the future of PLHIVs doesn't end with this pandemic, because even though there is a virus in the body called HIV, they can still have excellent and strong health quality.