Infectious diseases can often be so dangerous because the viruses or bacteria that cause illness may lay dormant for weeks. This allows for transmission, as those without symptoms may be unaware they are harboring any disease to begin with. When it comes to fighting HIV and AIDS, promoting understanding and testing, especially in conflict areas, is a critical feature of healthcare technology.
The use of great connectivity within healthcare and the latest health IT devices may be useful in mitigating the spread of HIV and AIDS. At the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, community engagement and patient education, as well as improved access to treatment, were highlighted as the next chapter in eliminating this pandemic.
According to the Huffington Post, the The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has coined a target for eliminating the disease by 2030 through an initiative known as “90-90-90.” Under this goal, 90 percent of individuals living with HIV would know the specifics of their status. The goal also includes 90 percent of that population having access to antiretroviral treatment, and of that group, 90 percent would have viral suppression treatments as well.
The Huff Post stated that since the first International AIDS Conference in 2000, millions of people around the world have received critical treatment for the disease. That being said, still greater than half of individuals living with HIV have never been diagnosed, and 60 percent of patients with the disease do not have access to reliable healthcare.
Supporting engagement and education
Spreading awareness about the specific risks of HIV and AIDS is an important pursuit, as this can be an essential intervention in rural and urban communities alike. The proliferation of patient portals and the use of telemedicine devices to connect doctors with clinics and other organizations can give patients the ability to ask questions and receive information related to the signs, symptoms and risks associated with HIV and AIDS.
“Gaps in coverage that currently exist can be made a little bit smaller.”
By leveraging health IT, patients can hopefully receive proper education and support surrounding the disease. Likewise, nurses and clinicians serving remote communities can be assisted in administering testing and treatment. In this way, gaps in coverage that currently exist can be made a little bit smaller, hopefully reducing the number of infections and promoting greater rates of medication adherence as well.
The Huff Post reported that in Ethiopia, health professionals have adopted a community-based initiative known as the Health Extension Program. With a population that is predominantly rural and hard to access, providing resources and treatment to HIV patients can be very difficult. Through HEP, there has been an emphasis on hygiene, sanitation and health education in an effort to reduce rates of infection. Similarly, there have been efforts to reduce the spread of other infectious diseases, as well as provide family health services, both of which are critical goals in the face of HIV and AIDS.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the use of connected devices and the latest technology to combat HIV and AIDS comes with a specific set of challenges beyond the disease itself. Currently, there are a number of requirements related to the electronic reporting of an HIV/AIDS diagnoses. This demands full interoperability so that different organizations can share patient data without delay or missing information.
This also creates new concerns related to the security of patient data. HHS reported that because the disease still carries a stigma in many communities, ensuring privacy is an essential pursuit beyond avoiding HIPAA violations when reporting and exchanging any information.