The fight against HIV/AIDS poses enormous challenges worldwide, generating fears that success may be too difficult or even impossible to attain before “Aids solidarity” was founded with the daily developments in diagnosis, tests, awareness, treatments, and medications. This healthcare organization raises awareness, supports those living with the condition, and remembers those who have died from it. Fortunately, much has changed since the early days of HIV/AIDS. Today, thanks to advances in medicine, it’s possible to live a healthy and full life with a disease that used to mean a death sentence.
Dr. Sara Boufenissa is an Algerian-based pharmacist, member of monitoring and evaluation, and assistant at Aids solidarity which is a non-governmental organization to fight against HIV/STI/AIDS. The Organisation was founded in the year 2000 and covers different states of Algeria since 2013 the vocation is the prevention of HIV transmission and bringing support and help to PLHIV (People living with HIV). She shares her experience with ADEWALE ADENRELE on the role of digitalization, the future of the healthcare industry, progress made in the battle against HIV/AIDS, and their success in the health of their patients.
Below are excerpts:
- You attended the IAS webinar tagged HIV and TB co-infections: latest updates and innovations, how do you think the healthcare industry will change over the next 5 to 10 years?
With the emergence of new pharmaceutical forms and new molecules in 10 years I see new therapeutic strategies with therapeutic relief. I am very optimistic. The future is bright and it is for us.
- There have been many positive reports recently regarding the fight against HIV/AIDS, but how even is this progress in your country and globally?
As known, Algeria has been engaged in fighting HIV for 30 years now, and there is huge progress in the last few years in terms of prevention (by facilitating access to protection) , awareness, and testing near populations with a high risk of exposure, and this within the framework of the national strategic plan. The early detection and notification of new seropositive and providing the free medical care and medication prevent from reaching the AIDS stage which is a huge step in fighting HIV and this is thanks to the political commitment of Algeria in the fight against HIV/AIDS
- How has access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in countries with high HIV rates changed over the last decade?
Access to ART made it possible to improve PLHIV’s health in general and to reduce the prevalence of opportunistic infections, cross-transmission, and mortality rates. As we always say “undetectable = untransmittable” which means when the virus load in blood is undetectable (equals zero) it is untransmittable
- Why do so many people in low- and middle-income countries start HIV treatment dangerously late?
The lack of information, lack/late HIV testing, and expensive drugs, are involved in late medical care in some countries with low- and middle-income. Algeria was able to overcome these difficulties by providing free health care and free medication for PLHIV.
- Tell us why some health centers experiencing stock-outs and why is there a lack of HIV testing in some countries.
In Algeria HIV testing is available and access to it is very easy.
- How much of an impact does stigma and discrimination have on those that are HIV positive, what do you think can be done to eliminate stigma?
The impact of stigma and discrimination on PLVIH is huge and not measurable. Information and awareness are the keys to eliminating them.
- In cases where children are affected by HIV/AIDS and what challenges do parents face in disclosing their HIV status to their children?
It is always difficult to reveal the serological status when it is HIV positive especially to children, that’s why as a start there is a psychological preparation by the psychologist, the simplified and age-adapted medical explanation by the doctor and parents (or parent).
- What are your major responsibilities as a member of the “Aids solidarity”, and how have you impacted your position on the populace?
As a member and monitoring and evaluation assistant, my major responsibilities are properly managing awareness-raising and screening campaigns, as well as the follow-up of projects and activities of the association in all our offices in the national territory. I am also working on facilitating access to ARV medication which I consider a duty as a pharmacist.
AIDS solidarity intervenes on several levels within the framework of the implementation of the national strategic plans as a member of the national committee for the fight against STIs/HIV/AIDS.
- Which work areas are you typically involved in and what are the most exciting aspects of working in the healthcare industry?
As already said, we work on facilitating access to testing and healthcare for PLHIV and on preventing the transmission of the virus. Also, we work on the psychosocial and on advocacy for better universal access to care. The most exciting aspects of our work are “saving lives” and “seeing the good results of our hard work”
- What role do you think digitalization plays in the healthcare industry?
I think that digitization in the healthcare industry is now an “imperative necessity” which is essential in terms of modernizing management, improving health services, and facilitating access to healthcare.
- Can you think of any client story in the healthcare industry that you are especially proud of?
The story that I keep in my head is a story of a lady with high determination and courage. She has a twelve years old son, they are both living with HIV. The first time she came to aids solidarity (in 2018) she had nothing, we encouraged her to start learning sewing and embroidering and she did, she got her diploma and we bought her the materials in need so that she starts her own business in 2019 a business that she was growing day after day. Now 2 years later she has her own manufactory and heard more than 30 women living with HIV teaching her son how to work with her .she is now an example for every woman in this world.
- Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us most amazing memory?
The most amazing memory I have is from a workshop dedicated to women living with HIV who have benefited from micro-project financing thanks to aids solidarity and were able to start their own project. During the workshop, they shared with us the story of their success and they have encouraged other women to do the same. The feelings were just amazing.
Thanks for sharing with ADM.
You are welcome