Mumbai’s HIV treatment centres facing shortage of crucial testing kits
The shortage of testing kits came to light owing to a 33-year-old HIV patient undergoing treatment at Mumbai’s JJ Hospitalmumbai Updated: Aug 18, 2017 16:34 IST
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatment centres in Mumbai are facing a shortage of viral load testing kits, said sources. Viral load testing is necessary to understand the status of an HIV patient’s infection. The test indicates the number of HIV particles present in the patient’s blood sample. The higher the viral load, greater the risk of the patient falling ill.
The tests and treatment are provided for free at anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres in major public hospitals in Mumbai and Maharashtra.
The shortage of testing kits came to light owing to a 33-year-old HIV patient undergoing treatment at Sir JJ Hospital’s ART centre. Eldred Tellis, founder of Mumbai NGO Sankalp Trust Foundation, said the woman is also a multi-drug resistant TB patient. “Her CD4 — a protein — count has dropped to 245. This means that her immunity is low. She was advised to undergo a viral load test urgently, however, doctors at Sir JJ Hospital’s ART centre said they have no kits left,” he said.
“Currently, the viral load samples that have been are being stored. There is a huge backlog. We do not have reports of viral load samples collected from May till date,” said the centre’s nodal officer, replying to a complaint filed by the foundation.
A 14-year old HIV-positive girl, whose haemoglobin levels dropped to 3.5 grams per deciliter, was urgently advised to undergo viral load testing, but could not owing to the shortage of kits.
However, Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director of Maharashtra District Aids Control Society (MDACS), a body that implements the National Aids Control Programme, said the shortage ended last month. She added that officials were now testing all pending samples. “MDACS has fast-tracked these cases,” she said.
Ganesh Acharya, an HIV activist, said NACO needs to ensure that centres do not run out of viral load kits as they are a crucial part of treatment.