“Respecting appointments and taking drugs on time is primordial in maintaining an undetectable viral load”
To get a deeper inside on what it takes to maintain an undetectable and non-transmissible viral load, we met with Madam Chanceline Lambo, Superior nurse in charge of people living with HIV in the Nkomo Departmental medical center, Yaoundé.
What is the advantage of having an undetectable viral load?
Before answering this question, it is important to know what viral load means. This is the amount of active virus in an organism. After a 06 month well followed Anti-Retroviral (ARV) treatment, the ARV are able to suppress and neutralize the activities of the virus. It is at this time that one is requested to do the viral load test. Here there will be two results. The viral load can be detectable or undetectable. If the viral load is detectable, this will mean that the activity of the virus is very present in your organism and this way you can contaminate people in your environment that are exposed to your biological liquid. So the advantage of having an undetectable viral load is that you cannot have opportunistic illnesses such as tuberculosis, you will live like any normal healthy person.
What are the factors that favor the increase in viral load?
Things that favor an increase in viral load is the “refusal to be infected by HIV” attitude. Sometimes when we test some people, they refuse to acknowledge that they can be infected with the virus and that the virus can never exist in their organism. With this refusal or denial, they equally reject treatment proposals, or they do not follow treatment properly or do not respect follow up dates. You can take drugs every day but if you do not respect the appointed time for the drugs, the viral load may become detectable. Consuming drugs such as tobacco, cocaine, tramol, alcohol, reduces the effectiveness of the ARV drug. We will take the example of youths aged 15 to 25. Currently in our center, we have 240 youths and among them we have about 7 who consume drugs. After 6 months of treatment, these 7 youths’ viral load was still detectable because the ARV was not properly absorbed into their organisms. Sometimes the drugs make them hyperactive excited or weak and they forget to take their medication on time.
What method do you use to keep young people living with HIV on treatment?
First of all, we explain to the youth what HIV is, the difference that exists between HIV and AIDS, the different modes of transmission of HIV, what is Anti-Retroviral drug and the importance of taking the drug on time and, as prescribed. We tell them the importance for them to respect all appointments.
We make them understand that with the virus, nothing is lost but that it marks the beginning of a new life for them as they can get married, have normal and uninfected children and have their dream job. We build confidence in them during meetings in support groups.