Stores and businesses are closed. We’ve been told to STAY HOME by our politicians and public health figures. We won’t be certain if these sacrifices have been successful until weeks from now. But we’re in the middle of this thing, and all we have control over are the actions that we take to limit the spread of COVID-19. I must echo the current recommendations and insist that you limit leaving your home. Wash your hands often. Consider food and medication delivery instead of visiting the grocery store. Sadly, this is not the time to be visiting older parents or friends who may be at higher risk of severe complications from this virus. When you must leave your home, keep a distance of 2 meters between yourself and others – that’s just beyond the distance that respiratory droplets travel through the air.
For those living with HIV or have friends who are, the limited data we have suggest that well-controlled, stable HIV does not increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The key is to continue to be as adherent as possible to your antiretroviral regimen, and plan ahead for refills if you will soon be running out. Remember, you must still request a prescription for antiretrovirals from your doctor before you can pick them up from the pharmacy. This is also the case for PrEP prescriptions. For the time being your doctor will fax this prescription to St. Paul’s pharmacy but before they do, they will assess your situation and may request that you do bloodwork or book an appointment.
So far, our “virtual” clinic has been running smoothly. Our front desk staff are fielding over 300 phone calls per day and our doctors and nurses are online, providing telephone and video assessments. Please note that all currently booked appointments will continue to be conducted by telemedicine. We will work on streamlining remote care and expanding access video conferencing with time. The good news is that we may be able to open the clinic again in a limited capacity by late next week.
The team at Spectrum has worked hard to transition to a “virtual” clinic as quickly as possible during this pandemic. Naturally there have been hurdles to overcome and you may have had delays getting through our phone system, or perhaps connection problems with your doctor. Know that we continue to work hard behind the scenes to correct these snags and provide the most robust system we can. If you do have issues getting through, please be understanding and call back in a few minutes. Do not call the on-call telephone during office hours, the on-call doctor will be busy with patients and won’t be able to answer.
This pandemic has affected us all, whether it be physically, financially, or emotionally. Yet I’m encouraged to see how it has also fostered creative ways of connecting with our loved ones and forced us to be conscious of our impact on others. I urge you to take an inventory of what you need to stay healthy right now. Perhaps that means taking the time to work on healthy sleeping patterns, cutting back on alcohol, or starting a guided meditation program. We may be in this for a while, but we’ve seen that these aggressive prevention strategies have worked in other countries. If we all hold on and do our part now, Canada just might be another success in the story of this virus.