Since the first antiretroviral drugs in 1996, the quality of life of people with HIV has taken a step forward. Every day technology advances and new drugs are developed, allowing anyone with HIV to live a healthy, and proactive life. However, despite the great scientific advances, antiretroviral side effects continue to be a problem that can affect the self-esteem of those with HIV.
For more than 30 years, much has been said about prevention, and millions of dollars have been invested in order to put an end to this epidemic. However, HIV seems to continue its way.
On the other hand, the short term effects are more than familiar; however, long-term side effects have been left apart, with which many people with HIV have to deal often.
Many people with HIV manifest that thanks to the antiretroviral therapy they have been able to continue a healthy life. However, looking themselves reflected in the mirror every day make them feel down, since they feel they don’t see the same person they used to be. This is usually because some kind of physical changes people with HIV undergo due to the medication they need to take daily.
Although this medication helps them continue having a healthy life, their bodies suffer physical changes; their arms and legs are thinner than before. Their bodies have suffered what is known as drug lipodystrophy, which also occasionally affects the face. These visible changes not only happen to people that have been taking ARV for a long period of time, but also age plays an important role.
Carlos Villanueva Ochoa, a Guatemalan dermatologist, said having received many cases which could be treated with new drugs, and they do not necessarily have to undergo reconstructive surgery procedures, whose cost is high for the common population. Facial fillers are also an option, which are injectable products used for filling cave-ins in the face, such as those caused by lipoatrophy.
Nowadays having HIV is understood as just something chronic and non-fatal. However, it is important not only to prescribe anti-retrovirals, but to pay close attention to the side effects of the medication in the long term, since it is not enough just having a life-saving medication, but also we need to work on the self-esteem.
It is necessary to continue advocating and improving the quality of life of people with HIV, working their minds together with their bodies. Furthermore, it is also important to achieve the incorporation of new schemes of antiretroviral drugs that do not cause side effects, as well as mechanisms and procedures to treat mainly facial lipoatrophy and return confidence to people with HIV and take them away from the fear of stigmatization.