This article will educate the patient or a patient’s loved one about the basics of palliative care, particularly concerning HIV/AIDS treatment.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a contagious disease which is transmitted from person to person through contact with blood, semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk and other bodily fluids. The virus damages the immune system as it reproduces, leading to infection and illness.
AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is an advanced stage of the HIV infection. The HIV virus attacks white blood cells, the cells which help protect the body from infection, thereby causing infections. In some cases, AIDS patients develop specific types of cancers which are associated with the illness.
HIV/AIDS is no longer considered an acute illness. It is now considered a chronic illness because newer medications, such as HAART (Highly Active Aniretroviral Therapy), are helping patients live longer. But the patients still need focused, specialized care. Palliative care can help to provide this special care.
How Palliative Care Can Help in the Treatment of HIV/AIDS
Palliative care is medical care that has been individualized for people living with certain illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. The goal of this specialized care is the improvement of the quality of both your life and your family’s lives. It can be combined with curative treatment to provide a layered approach to treatment, with a focus on the highest possible quality of life.Palliative care specialists work in conjunction with other doctors to provide multi-layered support. It is beneficial for any age patient and appropriate for all stages of the illness.
Palliative care can help you manage symptoms such as fatigue, pain and shortness of breath. It can also help manage side effects of curative treatment such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Palliative care specialists can help you through the fear, depression and anxiety which are not uncommon in persons facing a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. Palliative treatment options may integrate several method of effective treatment, which may include medication, guided imagery, relaxation techniques and massage therapy.
Care and Support
Palliative care professionals do not only treat you. They spend time communicating with your family. This approach, involving the family in treatment and decisions, can reduce the stress and ease the shock of dealing with the diagnosis and the actual illness of HIV/AIDS. This type of care has been shown to be effective on many different levels of other illnesses. Your palliative care team can also help you and your family with preparations for the future. Discussions about future care and quality of life concerns can help you and your family make crucial decisions about these subjects. Palliative care works in conjunction with curative treatment to enable the best possible quality of life for you and your loved ones.
Finding Palliative Care
If you need palliative care, or you have a loved one that may benefit from this complimentary care, you may ask your doctor for a referral. It is easy to find a hospital close to you that provides palliative care. Visit GetPalliativeCare.org/providers and use the state-by-state list to find a provider convenient to you. Also, take our quiz to see if palliative care is right for you.