A diagnosis programme launched last year to curb HIV/Aids infection among newborns, has helped bring down the mortality rate of children infected by HIV, government figures reveal.
Preliminary findings indicate that while 84 babies from the state succumbed to the infection in 2009, the number dropped to 55 in 2010. Until October this year, 55 newborns died of HIV/Aids. Experts credit early diagnosis and prompt treatment for this dip.
“EID is a boon because it enabled us to start treatment for children as early as eight weeks. All babies, who test positive at six weeks, are able to access treatment and their chances of survival go up immensely,” said pediatrician Dr Varsha Bhosle.
As part of the Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) programme, babies exposed to HIV are being tested as early as six weeks. Before the programme was launched in April 2010, babies could not be tested before they were 18 months old. This was resulting in a critical delay in treatment, severely affecting chances of survival of these babies.
“Although this test is indicative and does not confirm HIV infection, at least we can start treatment,” said Dr Asha Hegde, consultant at the Maharashtra Aids Control Society. “We follow up with two more tests and confirm HIV status at 18 months. Normally 33% of deaths in HIV positive babies happen by the first year and 50% by the second year,” added Dr Hegde.
More than 4,450 babies have been screened under EID programmes available at 204 integrated counseling and testing centres in the state. Of these, 438 were identified as positive and 317 were confirmed positive by follow-up tests. Currently, 203 babies are on antiretroviral treatment (ART).