In this episode of Chigurida Badaku, RJ Radha is in conversation with Puttanna, who is a Peer Counselor at KC General Hospital. He talks about the rising number of drop-outs among the PLHIV and the reasons behind it.
Puttanna talks in detail about the fear people harbour about the side-effects of the ART tablets. “It stops them from coming forward to take them. Many of them also face financial problems.” A common misconception among PLHIV is that if the CD4 (cluster of differentiation 4) level is OK, then there is no need to continue with the ART regimen. This is incorrect and dangerous.
One more pressing issue at ART centers is the difficulties Peer Counselors and Professional Counselors face because of overcrowding. The Professional Counselors are responsible for gathering comprehensive information about a patient’s health, hygiene, tablets, and nutrition based on their blood tests, but when the number of patients is out of hand, this level of information-gathering gets compromised. These Professional Counselors are then supposed to refer the patients to Peer Counselors after starting the ART regimen. “Peer counseling is more effective because they are PLHIV themselves and have been consuming tablets for a certain period of time. They share their life stories with the patients to inspire them to stick to the regimen and lead a normal life.”
Peer Counselors can also help mitigate the fears patients may have about the side-effects of ART, and Professional Counselors can help by providing complete and clear information before starting them on the ART tablets. “If this happens, the drop out cases will go down significantly.” Information about how the tablets should be taken, what will happen if they are not taken in that way, and what food should be taken with them needs to be clearly explained to every patient.
When there are more patients than the number that can be managed at a center, then the frequency and quality of the counseling sessions go down, directly affecting the patients.
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