World AIDS day | 40 years on – Rehabilitation is Key

For the past 33 years, the 1st of December has been synonymous with World’s AIDs day to raise awareness of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and those who live with this illness.

This year is a significant milestone as the first cases of HIV were first recorded in 1981 – at that time not much was known about the condition. There were reported cases of a rare lung infection and a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer known as Kaposi’s Sarcoma. These early cases were first reported in the male population however cases were soon seen in women and children, who were presenting with similar symptoms and severe immune deficiency.

During these early days little was known about the disease and its transmission leading to a poor prognosis and high death toll. Thankfully we now know much more about the condition which has resulted in early diagnosis, advancements in antiretroviral therapy and ultimately reduced transmission.  Despite this the number of people diagnosed has continued to rise and at the end of 2020 is was estimated there were  37.7 million people living with HIV.

If you are reading this article I want to ask you a question. What can Physiotherapists do to help “End Inequalities. End AIDs. End Pandemics?”

Physiotherapists Role in Managing HIV

Because of advances in treatment many people living with HIV have a normal life expectancy and achieve an undetectable viral load, meaning HIV is un-transmissable and cannot be passed on. Consequently more people are living and ageing with HIV alongside other health conditions resulting in the condition now being considered a chronic and episodic health condition.

Just as with other long term conditions physiotherapy plays a crucial role in making sure symptoms are managed and quality of life are maximised. Darren Brown, a physiotherapist specialising in the field of HIV, disability and rehabilitation sums this up when he says:

“Rehabilitation plays a critical role in supporting people living with HIV who experience episodic disability due to HIV, ageing or comorbidities, to optimise functioning and quality of life. Physiotherapists are central to disability inclusive responses to HIV care across high-, middle- and low-income settings.”– Darren Brown

Because of the unpredictable nature of the condition and the fact people living are living longer with concurrent illness people living with HIV are more likely than ever to be seen by a physiotherapist. Therefore it’s important we are all aware of the rehabilitation considerations required for people living with the condition.

It’s Time To Learn More About HIV

Throughout December our content team have decided to focus their efforts to create and review pages related to HIV. This way we can help physiotherapists provide the bet service they can for people living with HIV in the communities they serve. You can already read some of our pages now.

Our content makes an impact, our pages on HIV have been viewed almost 17,000 times from countries all over the world from Australia to Zimbabwe! If you want to join us in making a difference around the world why not join our team as a volunteer?