Seminar Focuses on HIV and Disability
A study presented by UKZN Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) Senior Research Specialist, Dr Jill Hanass-Hancock, has called for high quality research that investigates HIV-related disability in countries in Southern Africa where HIV/AIDS is endemic.
Organised by the Academic Leader for Research in the School of Health Sciences, Professor Mershen Pillay, the seminar reflected on HEARD’s HIV-Live Project which lauded the successful roll-out of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Southern Africa while raising concerns about the long term needs of managing health and wellbeing when living with chronic HIV. ‘These are currently largely unknown and if unaddressed may pose a risk to our future,’ Hanass-Hancock said.
Preliminary findings of the HIV-Live Project indicate that a large number of people on ART experience functional limitations that could indicate the onset of disability. These may also be negatively associated with health outcomes, livelihood and ART adherence.
Literature showed that people living with HIV, including those on ART, are at increased risks of functional limitations, such as their mental functions, sensory and perception functions, cardiovascular and respiratory functions, digestive, metabolic and, endocrine functions, reproductive and renal functions, as well as muscle and related tissue functions.
Hanass-Hancock said: ‘A large number of participants (35.5%) obtained a weighted score of two or more on the WHODAS 2.0 weighted, indicating possible functional limitations or disability. These limitations were associated with depressive symptoms and decreased adherence and livelihood outcomes. The main driver of this association was mobility limitations in this sample.
One of the more severely affected patients during a previous pilot study said: ‘When I was no longer able to see and walk, that is when I was affected the most.’ This study gave birth to a deeper investigation of the associations of HIV and disability and Hanass-Hancock therefore sees it as a crucial research agenda for research in Southern Africa.
The study was further informed by results from the systematic review that revealed that disabling conditions are experienced by a large number of people living with HIV. It questioned if and how experiences of disability impact key outcomes of health, adherence, and livelihood, and called for integration of rehabilitation into HIV-care.
School of Health Sciences academics from various disciplines agreed that holistic interventions were needed to improve HIV care through recognising the importance of disability in Southern Africa.
Hanass-Hancock has collaborated in this research initiative with academics: Professor Hellen Myezwa, Dr Alison Misselhorn, Mr Bradley Carpenter, as well as Mrs Verusia Chetty and Mr Saul Cobbing from the School of Health Sciences for further research on HIV and disability.