Seventeen years after the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), there are still people who think HIV infection is a terminal illness and nearly 90 percent believe treating the infection is extremely complicated, a survey conducted by the Taiwan Lourdes Association showed.
The survey on the public’s understanding of the disease and its treatment found that more than 10 percent of respondents believe that HIV is a terminal illness, 60 percent think HIV-positive individuals need to take at least 10 pills a day and nearly 90 percent believe the treatment is extremely complicated.
The survey showed that many respondents are unnecessarily afraid of the disease, the association said, adding that many people with HIV choose not to be treated because of fears about the treatment, side effects and potential social discrimination.
The association said that current treatment methods can significantly reduce the viral load in the blood, help maintain the immune system and increase life expectancy, and HIV is now seen as a chronic illness, not a terminal one.
“In Taiwan the prescription with the smallest number of pills is two pills a day, while the most complicated requires three during the day and another three at night,” said Hsieh Szu-min (謝思民), an attending physician for infectious diseases at National Taiwan University Hospital. “The aim of the regime is to reduce the viral load to an undetectable level in three months.”
HIV screening should be done as regularly as a pap smear, he said, adding that early detection means early treatment and a better chance of strengthening the immune system.
The association also listed six misconceptions about HIV/AIDS that need to be cleared up: that HIV is the same as AIDS; that HIV infection is untreatable; that HIV therapy is extremely complicated and requires at least 10 pills a day; that antiretroviral drugs always cause side effects; that only men who have had sex with men or those who use illicit drugs are at risk of contracting HIV; that since AIDS is not curable, there is no difference between receiving early treatment and receiving therapy when an HIV infection develops into AIDS.