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New drug regimen for HIV+ women has not taken off yet

The three-drug regimen for HIV positive pregnant women to prevent passing on infection to their newborns is yet to take off across the state. The regimen, proposed by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) last year, was to start in March.
By Menaka Rao | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON NOV 24, 2012 12:55 AM IST

The three-drug regimen for HIV positive pregnant women to prevent passing on infection to their newborns is yet to take off across the state. The regimen, proposed by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) last year, was to start in March.

According to data compiled by the Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS) and Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS), 102 babies in the city and 581 children in the rest of the state tested positive since March 2010.

Currently, HIV positive pregnant women are given a single drug therapy (Nevirapine) to prevent the infection to the child.

Despite administering this drug to the mother during labour and the child after birth, the newborn has an 8% to 10% chance of infection. With the new drug regime, the chances of infection could go down to one to two percent, said experts.

The figures were revealed in the Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) programme started in March 2010 where babies born to HIV mothers in EID centres were tested for HIV within 18 months of birth.

The dry blood sample of the baby is first taken to check for infection. If the test is positive, then the whole blood sample is taken to confirm the diagnosis. “The three drug regimen has been cleared this year in the annual action plan and is already being implemented in Karnataka. In Maharashtra, we will train the health workers soon,” said Dr Asha Hegde, joint director, MSACS.

Experts said the EID had made a huge impact on reducing infant mortality in the state.

“All the babies are put on anti-retroviral therapy as soon as they are detected with HIV. This has managed to reduce the mortality by at least 60-70%,”said Dr Mamta Manglani, director of Centre for Excellence, pediatric HIV at Sion Hospital and on NACO committee.

She added that the mother was also free of worries once the baby was declared HIV negative. “Earlier we would not give live virus vaccinations to such babies because their immunity was so low,” said Dr Manglani.

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