25 March 2015 –Over 90 people comprising of pharmacists, students and members of public turned out at the ‘Giving HEART & HAART for HIV’ talk delivered by Anitha Ramadas at Lecture Theatre 1, International Medical University, Bukit Jalil. The speaker, a BPharm graduate from IMU (2011) and recipient of the IMU Scholarships, is currently working as a Clinical Pharmacist with special interest in Infectious Disease at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL). This IMU Alumnus works closely with the Infectious Disease team at HKL and dedicates much of her time working the immunocompromised. The talk started with an introduction of the common guideline on HIV for all countries which was produced by the WHO in 2013. However, due to socioeconomic reasons, Malaysia is unable to adhere fully to the guidelines provided. Hence, an amended guideline was developed in 2014 by adapting the relevant ones from the WHO guidelines. The main aim of the talk was to expose health professionals to this new information to keep them updated about the latest treatment protocols. A basic overview of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and history of development of the disease was conducted to ensure that everyone in the audience have a basic understanding of the pathogen. The mode of transmission of the virus and how it harms the body immune system were also briefly discussed. Anitha highlighted that although the data from WHO reflects low disease prevalence in the South East Asia region, the truth was far from those figures. This is mainly due to the underreporting, low screening and notification rate unlike other more developed countries which conduct doorstep screening.
Moving on to the Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), an update was given about the drugs that are used to suppress the virus production in the host. This therapy which is a combination of at least 3 drugs can reduce the chance of virus developing drug resistance and has proven to be highly effective. Certain precautions were also worth noting when prescribing HAART to patients which are also suffering from other illnesses such as tuberculosis, hepatitis or psychiatric conditions to avoid adverse drug interactions that may cause harm to patients.
Lastly, she urged fellow health professionals to treat these patients with heart alongside HAART by offering them enough counselling and social support so that they would have the drive to live despite being infected with HIV. The talk ended with a short Question & Answer (Q&A) session addressing some concerns and doubts from the audience before calling it a day at 9:30pm. After the talk ended, announcement about future talks and events were made by the emcee before the whole event was adjourned.