New health policy aims to minimise HIV risk

Chitwan, October 27

With an eye to meeting its target of ending AIDS epidemic by 2030, the government has formulated new policy that enables even those at risk of contracting HIV to receive anti-retroviral drug.

According to  Dr Unnat Shrestha, chief of ART (antiretroviral treatment) Centre in Bharatpur Hospital, the medicine will be dispensed free of cost.

“Even if one has not contracted the disease but his partner is an HIV victim, he can take the drug to minimise HIV risk,” he said, adding that the drug can now also be provided to rape victims and sex workers, among others.

“The drug intake doesn’t guarantee the complete prevention of HIV, but it reduces chances of contracting the disease,” clarified Bharatpur Hospital-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation Nepal’s senior regional project coordinator Krishnahari Sapkota. He added that the drug could be received from any of 68 ART centres across the country.

“Anyone in doubt of having contracted HIV as a result of rape or some other medium should take the medication as per doctor’s prescription within 72 hours to minimise the risk of HIV,” said Dr Shrestha. He added that the full course of the medicine spans 28 days.

Some common modes of HIV transfer are unsafe sex, transfusion of blood from HIV-infected persons and use of common syringes. Similarly, a baby born to women with HIV is likely to have the disease.

The ART Centre in Bharatpur Hospital came into operation in 2007. A total of 1,469 HIV victims have registered their names at the centre till September this year. As per the data, 748 patients are regularly taking the drug from the centre. Latest estimates put the number of people with HIV in Nepal at 32,735.