Is Gujarat’s Kutch district the latest HIV hotspot? After a non-government organisation, the Kutch Network of Positive People, revealed that 18 people had died of AIDS, the state health department has rushed a team of doctors to Kutch.
Last month, two HIV-positive boys were asked to leave their orphanage. The NGO, which arranged shelter for the boys, claimed that the 18 deaths were caused by shortage of the free anti-retroviral (ARV) drug.
State Health Secretary Dr Amarjit Singh told the Hindustan Times that the deaths had been reported over several months.
Singh admitted that ARV drugs were in short supply in Kutch and that Ahmedabad and Surat were the only two ARV centres in the state. The health secretary said a new ARV drug centre would be opened at Rajkot and more doctors would be trained in handling these drugs.
The team of doctors which went to Kutch will be joined by some more doctors from the GK General Hospital in Bhuj. The doctors will inquire into the causes of the recent deaths.
Dr DM Saxena, chief of the State AIDS Control Society, said the 18 deaths in Kutch were reported from different places in the district and were spread over a period of six months.
On the fate of the two HIV positive boys rescued from the orphanage last month, Dr Saxena said he and other NGOs are trying to impress upon the five maternal uncles to take custody of the siblings. None of the five maternal uncles are ready to keep the boys because they fear that their own children will be infected, Dr Saxena said.