Pharmacists can play a critical role in the response to almost any public health crisis, with COVID-19 being the most recent and notable example. Pharmacists have the most extensive access to local communities in comparison to other clinicians. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy, creating an incredible opportunity for pharmacists to become crucial partners in the response to various public health crises, such as HIV/AIDS.
Over 40 years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its first official report
of the new syndrome now known as AIDS. With many advancements in treatment and technology, we have come a long way since 1981. Clinical care for patients diagnosed with HIV relies largely on drug therapy, specifically antiretroviral medications. When these medications are taken as prescribed, the benefits
include reductions in morbidity, mortality, improved quality of life and prevention of transmission.
Community pharmacists are trained to work closely with patients to utilize various strategies to improve adherence to treatment. Whether medications are packaged into blister packs, multi-dose strip packaging, or utilization of reminder apps or devices, such as spencer, pharmacists can help find a solution that aligns with each patient and their unique treatment plans. A notable barrier to adherence is the potential adverse effects from antiretroviral medications. Being proactive by offering strategies to manage adverse effects and continual monitoring (including remote patient monitoring), can mean the difference between successful treatment and poor outcomes.
Adherence to Treatment Key to Success
Managing HIV with effective treatment regimens allows for patients to live longer, healthier lives. While drug therapy is the cornerstone of HIV treatment, managing other health conditions is just as important to a patient’s overall health. Not only are pharmacists accessible and well-trained in drug therapy management, they offer their HIV patients information on vaccinations, smoking cessation, diabetes management, hypertension and kidney and bone health. This offering is particularly important, as HIV’s persistent stigma affects patient’s access to the care they need. Because of this stigma, many patients may delay treatment or avoid reaching out to the appropriate clinicians for help. Pharmacists' accessibility, and willingness to care for HIV patients creates the opportunity to continue on the trajectory we have been on since 1981 – to a better future for our HIV patients.
By offering HIV patients strategies to manage adverse side-effects and continual monitoring (including remote patient monitoring), being proactive can mean the difference between successful treatment and poor outcomes.
About the author
Kristen Antunes holds a BSP in Pharmacy from the University of Saskatchewan. She is the Director of Clinical Outcomes and her experience as a clinical pharmacist, spin instructor, and meditation teacher make her a well-rounded health and wellness expert. She leads patient engagement initiatives and works with community pharmacists to obtain meaningful results. For a patient or a population, improving health outcomes is her jam!