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Babies of AIDS patients to be tested for HIV at four weeks
Published on 18 Oct. 2009 10:41 PM IST
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The government is to carry out HIV tests on four-week-old and above babies of all AIDS patients - a significant decision aimed at reducing infant mortality due to the killer disease and improve child health conditions. “Early diagnosis of HIV among kids will lead to early treatment. This will benefit the children as well as their families,” A. Khera, joint director of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), told IANS. Earlier, the government had a rule to conduct HIV tests on children after they reached two years. The old rule has been modified, and the change will be implemented “very soon” across several states, he said. As per the new rule, children of HIV infected parents will undergo the required test when they reach the fourth week of their birth. “This will help us find out whether the disease transmission has taken place or not. If yes, then anti retroviral treatment will start very soon. This will help them stay healthy and live longer,” Khera added. He said initially the scheme would be rolled out in high-prevalent states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Maharashtra. “Following that, it will be done across the country,” explained the joint director. India is home to around 2.5 million HIV positive people, of whom around 40 percent are female and a little more than three percent are children below age 15. The primary reason behind the HIV infection among kids is mother to child transmission. Several NGOs working for the betterment of HIV positive people will help the government in implementing the new plan successfully. Welcoming the decision, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, an NGO working in four states of India, said it was a great move and would prevent infected children from slipping into malnourishment during the early stages. “This is a great move forward,” Sonal Mehta, head of the NGO, told IANS. Mehta’s organisation is working with support from international aid agency Global Fund, for the up-liftment of HIV infected and affected children in states like Andhra Pradesh and Manipur. “For early detection of HIV among toddlers, the authorities will carry out an HIV PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. This will give the required result,” she said. Mehta said early diagnosis and treatment would boost the longevity of affected children and their physical growth will not be hampered. “Generally, HIV infected kids’ growth becomes stunted, and if detected in the early years they will get a better chance to live a normal life for a longer period.”

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