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Test identifies infants’ HIV status early
NEW DELHI, JUL 19 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 19 Jul. 2010 10:36 PM IST
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A simple blood test is now helping India identify the status of children born to HIV positive mothers as early as six weeks after their birth, instead of 18 months.
Till recently, paediatricians in India, on detection of anti-HIV antibodies in children below 18 months, could never tell for sure whether they were already infected or the antibodies were transferred to them from their mother.
Therefore, doctors couldn’t even start the lifesaving Anti-Retroviral Treatment — the only effective way to treat HIV — on them. This, according to National Aids Control Organization (NACO), led to 33,000 new infants getting the infection every year from their HIV positive mothers.
India, in March, rolled out the highly accurate DNA PCR (polymerase chain reaction ) test in the four high prevalence states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Available in 767 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTCs) and 180 ART centres, the DNA PCR can test the blood sample of a child after it reaches six weeks of age and accurately say whether it is already infected with HIV or not. The antibody test available before March could only confirm the HIV status after the child reached 18 months of age.
In the last three months, 45 children have been tested for HIV status. NACO hopes to roll out the test to 10,000 children born to HIV positive mothers by March next year.
“As soon as the child of an HIV positive mother is older than six weeks, his or her blood sample is collected and transported to seven national labs for testing with DNA PCR which gives us a definitive diagnosis on the child’s HIV status . The report is available in just a week,” NACO’s ART chief Dr B B Rewari told TOI before leaving for the International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
Dr Rewari, who will present this data in Vienna , added, “Usually, if such children aren’t put on treatment, 50% of them die within the first year of birth if infected. So early diagnosis and treatment is vital.”
Till now, India has detected 19,000 children with HIV. Unlike other tests, the HIV DNA PCR test does not rely on presence of antigens or antibodies in blood for diagnosis .
Instead, it identifies genetic material by highlighting sequences of virus within the subject’s DNA.
Experts say all babies born to mothers with HIV are born with HIV antibodies . Babies who are not infected lose their antibodies by the time they are about 18 months old. However, most babies can be diagnosed as either infected or uninfected by the time they are three months old by using DNA PCR test.
“The PCR test is more sensitive than the HIV test, and is not used in the standard HIV testing of adults. It looks for the presence of HIV itself, not antibodies,” a NACO official said.
When a woman is tested HIV positive, she is offered special medical care to reduce the risk of her baby being infected.
Some pregnant women with HIV decide to have their baby. Others choose to have a termination.

 
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