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The dangers of delaying ART.
When to start Antiretrovirals and the reasons behind why you should not delay treatment.
The dangers of delaying ART treatment
South Africa’s approach, as outlined by the Department of Health, has been to only start ARVs once a person’s count has slipped to below 350 cells/mm3. (The CD4 cell count indicates the state of an individual’s immune system and in an average HIV- male could be anywhere between 400 and 1600.)
While South Africa’s low starting point is already below the suggested minimum, the WHO’s recommended guidelines tended to focus, at the time, on curbing the transmission of the virus (those who started ARVs at higher CD4 counts were about 96% less likely to transmit the virus). The latest study contemplates the quality of life of those already infected, with the emphasis on decreasing the prospect of serious illness – a major concern considering the cost and impact of HIV-related illnesses.
Although there may be differences of opinion with respect to when to start ART, there is agreement the world over on the matter of strict adherence once on treatment. We at AllLife strongly encourage the belief that “adherence to proper monitoring and treatment is still the only proven way to maintain optimal health for people living with HIV”.
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As a specialised insurance provider, AllLife offers life and disability cover to HIV+ people. A key requirement for the Advantage Life or Advantage Life Disability policy is a commitment to adhere to a specific protocol. This essentially means that the antiretroviral drugs need to be taken at precisely the same time every day in the exact way prescribed. Policyholders are then required to submit CD4 and Viral Load test results at least once every six months in order to demonstrate their compliance. Our clients commitment to our Adherence program can statistically substantiate our claims to have seen “a major improvement in our clients’ CD4+ count of approximately 15% within 6 months of taking out life insurance cover” with us, which can be attributed to the AllLife Adherence programme requirements and monthly health tips and daily social media advice.. This evidence further supports the importance of ART and the corresponding significance of adherence.
The results of the Temprano study were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in February 2015 and are expected to be considered in a review of the optimal timing to start ART. The WHO is expected to release their updated recommendations at the end of this year.
We all have questions.
Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.
What is usually the first sign of HIV?
After getting infected with HIV, most patients only experience moderate flu-like symptoms. Typically, the illness is sudden in onset and is characterised by fever, swelling of the lymph glands, a measles-like rash all over the body and ulcers in the mouth and sometimes on the genitalia.
What are the 4 stages of HIV?
- Stage 1: Infection – Exposure to infected bodily fluids.
- Stage 2: Asymptomatic – HIV quickly spreads and the patient becomes seropositive for HIV antibodies.
- Stage 3: Symptomatic – The immune system is now engaged in a constant battle with the rapidly replicating virus.
- Stage 4: AIDS – At this stage, the patient’s CD4+ count is 200 cells per mm3 or less.
How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?
No test can detect HIV immediately after infection. The time between initial infection and a detectable viral load is called the window period. It can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to after exposure detect whether you are HIV-positive or not, depending on which testing method is used.
How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV?
Following initial infection, there is a period of intense, unchecked viral replication that occurs. It usually takes two to four weeks after infection and can last about one to two weeks, after which there tends to be a slight recovery, and the infected individual is considered to be seropositive for HIV antibodies.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids. The main method of transmission in South Africa is through unprotected sexual activity.
Does HIV test affect life insurance?
Being HIV-positive can affect standard life insurance policies, particularly if your status changes from HIV-negative to HIV-positive within a particular age range. That’s why AllLife covers all lives. Your HIV status doesn’t prevent you from getting cover with us.
Can HIV-positive women have children?
Yes, HIV-positive women can enjoy healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy HIV-negative babies. Through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme has been highly effective in reducing transmission risk to under 1%.
Up to R10 million Life Cover for people living with HIV.
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What will I be covered for?
In a few simple steps, you could be covered for comprehensive Life Cover and HIV Disability Cover (optional). We believe in providing you with Life Insurance to suit your needs so we will find a solution for you.
You get more than a life policy, you get a team to help you stay healthy.
What happens after I‘m covered?
After you’re covered you can enjoy the benefit of our Health Control Programme where we remind and assist you when it comes to regular tests and checkups, ensuring that you live a healthy and happy life.
Remember, life cover gets more expensive as you get older, so your premium will never be lower than it is today.