Early diagnosis, treatment can prevent HIV deaths

Kathmandu, December 1

As World AIDS Day is being celebrated across the globe today, HIV patients continue to die due to lack of timely treatment in the country.

According to National Centre for AIDS and STD Control, the number of HIV deaths in the country stands at 1,771 annually.

Dr Anup Bastola, consultant tropical medicine physician and HIV clinician at ‎Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, said of the 308 HIV patients admitted to the Teku-based hospital, 27 people died during the fiscal 2015-16. This shows that the mortality rate among HIV patients in the hospital stands at 8.7 per cent.

“The number of HIV deaths in the country is still high. This is because the government has conducted no research on HIV patients. On the other hand, patients come to the hospital for treatment when the disease is at its advanced stage and treatment becomes difficult,” Dr Bastola added.

NCASC said 30,200 HIV cases have been reported in the country so far. Of them, 18,747 are male, 11,355 female and 98 transgender. It also said that HIV prevalence was high among people between the ages of 25 and 49 years. A total of 21,965 patients are reported to have been suffering from HIV in this age group.

Annually 284 pregnant women are diagnosed with the disease. New infections among children below 14 years of age stand at 50 annually. As many as 39 children below the age of 14 years die of AIDS annually.

New infections and AIDS-related deaths among children can be reduced. “Infants born to HIV-infected women are at low risk of acquiring the disease if the mothers are on antiretroviral medication. However, infants born to women who are diagnosed with HIV only during delivery are at high risk of acquiring HIV,” said Dr Bastola.

“Women must visit hospital at least four times during their pregnancy. If we can diagnose HIV among pregnant women at early stage of pregnancy then the risk of transmission of the disease to child can be reduced. However, for this the child must be delivered in the hospital,” he added.

In addition, to prevent AIDS related deaths among children early diagnosis is necessary. “For this, the infants must be tested within 48 hours of delivery so that we can start medication,” said Dr Bastola. HIV medicines are available at 68 ART sites and 25 ART Dispensing Centres throughout the country.