A little over fifteen years ago, when thirty people gathered in Quebec City to discuss the novel concept of rehabilitation for those living with HIV, no one would have imagined the positive strides in HIV treatment and care that were to come. I would know, because I was one of those people.
Today on World AIDS Day, it’s a time for us to stop, think, feel and remember, and also to plan how we will continue to maintain and expand upon the gains that we’ve made in the response to HIV nationally, provincially and locally. It’s also a time to take stock of what remains to be done, and access to rehabilitation services, such as physiotherapy for people living with HIV (PHAs), is high on that checklist.
As we suspected all those years ago and the research is demonstrating now, for many PHAs in Canada, timely and appropriate access to rehabilitation services can provide the support needed to maintain, improve or regain optimum health and improve their quality of life. HIV is now considered a chronic illness with most PHAs living longer and with health-related consequences of HIV and aging, as well as other health conditions that they may develop at the same time. The evidence in the HIV and rehabilitation field is showing, therefore, that there is an increasing role for physical therapists to respond to the episodically disabling nature of HIV.
The reality is, however, that a number of barriers exist that prevent PHAs from accessing rehabilitation services. Some of these barriers include stigma and discrimination, cost, availability of services, eligibility for services, a lack of awareness of rehabilitation services, or even the need for rehabilitation. Over fifteen years later, CWGHR continues to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to improving access to rehabilitation services through the work of our ‘Equitable Access to Rehabilitation Advisory Committee’ and through the recent recruitment of a Project Coordinator dedicated to moving that agenda forward.
It is also the reason why we’ve chosen today to host our first-ever live Twitter chat.
In partnership with the Canada-UK HIV and Rehabilitation Research Collaborative (@CUHRRC), the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (@PhysioCan), and the (UK-based) Rehabilitation in HIV Association (@RehabHIV), we’ll be discussing the emerging role and evidence for physical therapy in the context of HIV and answering an important question: HIV and Rehabilitation – What Does Physiotherapy Have to do with it?