Hospitals to test tots for HIV

DHANGADHI: Seti Zonal Hospital in Dhangadhi has launched the Early Infant Diagnosis Service, intending to check the health of under-18-month-old babies infected with HIV. The service was simultaneously launched in Kathmandu, Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi, an SZH source said.

Until now, the health of babies, born to an HIV-infected mother, could not be checked before the age of of 18 months. The new development facilitates the health check-up of babies between six and 17 months of age.

The hospital tests blood samples taken from the children and gives a report within a month. "The service was launched as the infected babies started dying before 18 months of age," Dr Kushal Karki at SZH said.

The SZH, supported by Family Health International, collects blood samples of the babies and sends them for laboratory test in Bangkok. The test, which costs over Rs 10,000, was launched also to satisfy the curiosity of HIV-infected parents, Dr Karki said.

If a one-year-old is found to have contracted the deadly virus, the baby is given anti-retro viral dose. Dr Karki said two of the 13 blood samples of children tested negative. "It's good news," he said.

The milk of an HIV-infected mother transfers the disease to her child so breastfeeding is discouraged, the doctor said. But it is essential until the age of six months.

The hospital data shows there are 167 children infected with HIV in the far west. As many as 2,500 women are believed to have been infected with the virus.