29.7 PLHIV should avoid getting infections
As you already know, since HIV affects the function of the immune system, a person with HIV is more susceptible to opportunistic infections. People with HIV should take effective actions to prevent communicable diseases which may have important consequences for their health. Here, we will briefly discuss some preventative measures to reduce the risks of some common infections, but you should refer to the more detailed discussion of prevention in other study sessions in this Communicable Diseases Module when giving advice to PLHIV.
Can you give any examples of common infectious diseases that PLHIV may contract due to improper handling of food and unclean water?
You may have thought of giardiasis, amoebiasis and diarrhoeal diseases caused by bacteria or viruses.
To prevent the occurrence of faeco-oral diseases, caused by transmission of infectious agents from the faeces to the mouth (usually on the hands or in food and water), your advice should include instructions on clean preparation of food and water before consumption. For example, vegetables and fruits should be washed with clean water. Drinking water should be cleaned by boiling it vigorously for a few seconds, then cooling it. Advise your patients to eat only well-cooked food. For example, cooked meat should be brown and have no traces of blood in it, and soups should always be boiled before being eaten.
You will learn about specific faeco-oral diseases in Study Sessions 32 to 34 of this Module.
Another very important hygienic measure used to prevent faeco-oral diseases includes frequently washing hands with soap, in particular after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating.
Prevention of sexual transmission of HIV (Section 29.2) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (Study Session 31) should be actively encouraged. Remember that PLHIV can still transmit HIV if they are involved in unsafe sexual practises, even if they are on ART.
What are the main preventative measures to reduce the risk of STIs and HIV re-infection?
Abstaining from sex, being faithful to a long-term partner, and adopting safer sex practices, such as the use of condoms.
If your community is in a malaria-endemic area, you should educate PLHIV to use bed nets regularly at night, to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes (Study Session 9). This is because PLHIV are particularly susceptible to malaria.
Finally, common hygienic measures to reduce the risk of infections from minor injuries or wounds include thorough cleaning and wound care. You should actively encourage PLHIV to attend the nearest health post or health centre as soon as possible in the event of a minor injury or wound.