Some of the 40 HIV/AIDS patients, undergoing anti-retroviral treatment (ART) at the Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH), may have 'died' in the absence of ART drugs in Patna. But in the registers of ART Centre, PMCH, these patients have only gone 'missing'.
If PMCH Superintendent Dr A K Pandey is to be believed, the ART centre ran short of drugs, as the actual number of HIV/AIDS cases reported in Patna was over five times higher than the estimation of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) made for 2006-07.
Against an estimation of 200 HIV/AIDS patients coming to the PMCH ART Centre, a survey conducted by PMCH ART centre counsellor Vinita Tripathi reveals that 1007 actually turned up till March 31 this year after the Centre became functional on August 15, 2006. Of them, 343 were put on ART while almost an equal number were put on anti-tuberculosis therapy (ATT).
Senior Medical Officer, ART Centre in PMCH, Dr Manish Kumar, told Hindustan Times, "Normally, depending on CD4 count of patients on ATT, they also need to be put on ART within a month or two. So, if a projection of patients requiring ART is to be done, around 800-odd would qualify for ART." Asked about the shortage of drugs at the ART Centre, Dr Kumar said, "We were not able to supply ART medicines like Stavudin, Zidovudin, Lamivudin for a month or two. As a result, some 30-odd patients had a break in ART, which is not at all advisable because a patient then becomes susceptible to infections and also develops drug resistance."
Dr Kumar was, however, quick to point out that the NACO acted swiftly after he wrote letters informing them of the ART drug scarcity and made some drugs available from ART centres at Chandigarh, Muzaffarpur and Kolkata.
Asked if the 40-odd patients, who skipped ART in the absence of medicines died, Counsellor Vinita said, "In our registers, they are 'missing'. Our records at best indicate how many HIV/AIDS patients have missed ART treatment. I can only say that these 35-40 patients have not turned up for ART since we ran short of drugs. Before that the compliance rate was very good."