The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) will soon launch seven state-of-the-art “centres of excellence” across the country to expedite its ongoing treatment programmes for AIDS-affected children.
In the first phase, to be launched on November 30, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Imphal will each have a centre offering services free of cost. The centre in Delhi will be at Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital. UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi will inaugurate the centre in the presence of former US president Bill Clinton.
Explaining the importance of the new centres in the fight against AIDS in children, Dr AK Dutta, Medical Superintendent of Kalawati Saran Children's’ Hospital, said that the centre would, for the first time, help in diagnosing AIDS in children within 18 months of their birth. “Also, they will offer free treatment for those infectious diseases which only AIDS patients are vulnerable to. Most of the diagnostic centres in India are not capable of providing treatment for these unusual infections at present,” he said.
All the pediatric anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres run by NACO in North India will refer their cases to this centre. Dutta said the centres would be “a step ahead of the present AIDS fighting mechanisms.”
The importance of the centres also lies in the fact that children undergoing treatment at, for instance, the pediatric ART centres in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital or the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, will no longer have to be physically present for tests and examinations.
“These will be referral centres equipped with the latest technology for examination. Dry blood samples will be carried to the centres on filter papers to be run for all tests, a technology that was not available earlier,” said Sujatha Rao director-general, NACO.
According to the national ART consultant for NACO, Dr BB Riwari, the organisation already has 23,000 children undergoing treatment at ART centres all over India and 1400 more have been identified for inclusion in the programme.
Moreover, all the existing ART centres are now equipped with age-specific doses of drugs for AIDS patients.
“Earlier in the absence of age-specific doses, doctors would just make an approximation and cut a regular dose for adult by half or quarter and administer that to children. As a result, there remained the risk of underdose or overdose which failed to have any effect on the disease in children,” said Dr Riwari while explaining the effect of the absence of specific, ready formulations for HIV patients in different age brackets.
He said that this problem was overcome with the help of special treatment protocol that scientifically specifies the exact doses that are to be administered to various age groups.