Thousands of Peruvians Get HIV Services Amid COVID-19 Quarantine
Photo Courtesy of AHF

Thousands of Peruvians Get HIV Services Amid COVID-19 Quarantine

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By Fiona Ip

AHF Peru staff work to deliver health services, ARVs and personal protective equipment during a restrictive quarantine.

Out of necessity, telemedicine and flexible support has become a part of the new normal as a result of COVID-19. AHF Peru is taking that change in stride – its team has redesigned its care model to ensure continued support to nearly 3,400 HIV clients and other vulnerable people during quarantine.

This included launching its virtual Wellness Center (WC) to provide counseling, medical and psychological guidance on STIs, and medicine delivery when patients are unable to travel to pick up their antiretrovirals (ARVs) from health facilities.

“Members of our team are all very committed and working hard to continue delivering HIV prevention, linkage to care and other supportive services to the community during this difficult time – including efforts by our Iquitos team to support indigenous communities in rural areas,” said AHF Peru Advocacy Manager Nadya Bravo Garcia. “In addition to our virtual efforts, we’ve also worked with partners to deliver ARVs for HIV to 351 clients and have provided food to 2,358 vulnerable people. Support was also provided to 13 health facilities with the delivery of personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.”

The Wellness Center launched on March 30, with AHF Peru utilizing various platforms to serve more than 1,600 clients virtually. These include WhatsApp, telephone, and of course, a robust online environment that offers live sessions where doctors can answer audience questions in real time on HIV, STIs, and COVID-19, among other important topics.

“The health of people living with HIV is more exposed during emergencies like COVID-19, so the implementation of novel strategies such as tele-counseling or tele-monitoring are extremely useful for ensuring patients remain on treatment,” said Dr. José Luis Sebastián, Director of AHF Peru and the Andean Region. “Additionally, our virtual Wellness Center can be a scalable project that gives health authorities a better tool for HIV response in the region. It’s shown how telemedicine is a viable option for fulfilling of the human rights of people living with HIV, and its use will be valuable after the pandemic.”

“A few days ago, AHF gave me virtual counseling, and I appreciate the attention and information provided, especially at this stage of the global pandemic that forces us to be home,” added AHF patient José Luis Alvarez. “I want to congratulate them for the support they provide to the community every day through their digital platform, and I offer my sincere and eternal thanks. All the information I requested was given to me, and now I am calmer to continue with my life.”