Persistence on the Path to Health

When FACES staff first encountered Veronica (29) and Joseph (35)*, an HIV-positive couple, they quickly realized through prompt testing that both were struggling to achieve viral suppression.

For Veronica, although she was adherent to her first-line treatment, FACES staff realized it was failing her. She was battling frequent infections and her viral load had risen above 100 copies (below 75 copies/mL is optimal viral suppression). The FACES team promptly switched her to a second-line treatment, which she has now been on for the past year. Her health has improved significantly and she is virally suppressed.

For Joseph, whose viral load had skyrocketed above 350 copies/mL when he first encountered FACES staff, the major barrier to suppression was lack of adherence. FACES staff quickly acted to shift Joseph’s care visits to focus on adherence interventions. With their support, he is taking his HIV drugs twice per day and has begun using strategies, like the alarm on his phone, to remember.

And according to Joseph, he and his fellow patients are not the only ones befitting from the vigilance and follow-through of FACES staff. He notes that, since FACES started providing HIV services at his facility in October 2016, FACES staff have gone through old records and identified community members who used to be on antiretroviral treatment but had become disconnected from care. “FACES found my neighbors who had defaulted and brought them back into care,” says Joseph. He continued, “If you get a result that needs follow up, they will trace you, call you, and they will get you back to the facility for intervention. They treat their clients as their own children.”

For Veronica, who spent many years in denial of her HIV status and refusing treatment, the support of FACES staff has gone well beyond viral suppression. “When I was first tested, I thought HIV was a death sentence. Through coming to clinic, I have learned how…to live HIV-positive, how to disclose my status, how to fight stigma and discrimination, and how to accept myself.”

*Names have been changed to protect our clients’ privacy.