Tue | Jan 18, 2022

COVID-19 impacts HIV/AIDS patient care

Published:Wednesday | December 1, 2021 | 12:12 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

THE MEDICAL care of patients infected with HIV is a problem involving a complex, multisystem disease process, multiple hospitalisations, invasive diagnostic testing, and an extremely high mortality rate. Hospital-based medical services are particularly strained by these clinical features, and community-based services are strained additionally by the inadequate financial and social reserves of many patients and by the lingering fear of contagion.

Despite decades of scientific advances in prevention and treatment, as well as widespread awareness-raising efforts, irrational fears of HIV infection and negative attitudes towards people living with HIV are a persistent barrier to addressing the epidemic. HIV-related stigma is evident in irrational or fear-driven negative attitudes, behaviours and judgements towards people living with HIV, their partners and families and key populations.

In an effort to assist persons living with the disease in 1987, Dr Patricia Burke, paediatrician, opened a clinic that catered to providing care for persons and families infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS disease which she called ‘The Family Centre.’ However, in 2003, the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) adopted this facility and changed the name to The Centre for HIV/AIDS, Research, Education & Services (C.H.A.R.E.S).


C.H.A.R.E.S. is currently the outpatient healthcare arm of the hospital providing quality prevention, treatment, care and support services for any and every one infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS disease.

According to Racquel Brown, programme director at C.H.A.R.E.S., their main objective over the past two years has been to ensure that their clients stay in care and adhere to their antiretroviral medication therapy. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made achieving these targets a bit more difficult but nevertheless we are always working to meet them,” Brown said.

C.H.A.R.E.S, she said, is responsible for adult populations aged 18 years and older, and they serve a diverse population within this group. “Our doors are always open to anyone who is HIV positive wanting compassion, support and best care practices and if based on the clients’ circumstances, we can and will refer you to another facility we trust will provide the support needed,” Brown said.

Through different initiatives, Brown said, C.H.A.R.E.S. ensures that their delivery puts the clients’ interests at the core of their activities. Education, training and research, she said, is important for the organisation as it ensures that they have a better understanding of both local and international best practices that are necessary to guide their operations.

“It is also absolutely important to have a skilled and competent multidisciplinary healthcare team who are passionate about advocating, in their respective fields, for the health, livelihood and safety of the clients. The C.H.A.R.E.S programme works because of the compassion and heart of our team who are devoted and committed. They always work beyond the call of duty,” Brown said.

C.H.A.R.E.S. is located on the UHWI compound. They can be contacted through the main line; or email charesuhwi@gmail.com; or telephone: 876-977-6921.