Second-line drugs for HIV+ patients delayed

The process of diagnosing and counselling new HIV-positive patients on second-line drugs and alternative first-line Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) regime is being carried out at a slow pace at the NACO (National AIDS Control Organisation)- designated ART centre at the Bowring and Lady Curzon  Hospital here.

Ever since the second-line drugs debuted in 2009, over 390 patients have been availing the medications, while 350 have been on the alternative regime.

In the beginning of the year, St John’s Hospital stopped receiving samples from the ART centre owing to differences over the conditions in the MoU signed between the hospital and the NACO.

This led to a delay in the NACO and the Karnataka State Aids Prevention Society (KSAPS) roping in Nimhans as the designated centre for viral load testing.

According to Health department sources, this change has had a ripple effect on the conduct of State Aids Clinical Expert Panel (SACEP) meetings and subsequent procedures, including sending samples for testing.

As per NACO guidelines, the three-member SACEP has to hold meetings every week and the experts have to diagnose and counsel HIV-positive patients who have either developed resistance to the first-line drugs or have suffered toxicity.

The latest records of the ART centre, however, show that SACEP meetings are either held fortnightly or monthly, which can sometimes delay the process of administering the right medicine at the right time to patients. But officials at the ART centre say assessing every patient takes time and cannot be done in haste.

As for the SACEP meeting, it will be held in accordance with the NACO guidelines, an official said.

He said the ART centre at Bowring Hospital was doing well and patients from private facilities referred to the unit received the best benefits available for people suffering from HIV infection.

Travel reimbursement

The KSAPS plans to reimburse travel expenses incurred by HIV-positive patients while travelling to ART centres. Patients from the Below the Poverty Line families can avail of the benefit.

As many as 85,605 people living with HIV (39,950 males, 39,888 females and 149 transgenders) who are on ART. The patients visit over 49 ART centres and 167 Link ART Centres across the State. There are over 5,618 children on ART, including 3,214 males and 2,404 females.

Construction workers

The KSAPS is also planning to partner with CREDAI to ensure that construction workers, mainly migrants, are educated about HIV and are exposed to HIV-sensitive messages and information on a regular basis. The plan is to integrate HIV sessions into their daily safety messaging schedules.

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