A fourth anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centre in the city,to be launched by National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) in Model Colony on July 1,has raised the hopes of many living with HIV who were earlier deprived of free medication.
NARI director Dr RS Paranjape said interventions had brought about a decline in the number of new infections among women attending the ante-natal clinics. Several studies in south India are showing this trend. But,there is a need to provide free medication to patients.
The ART centre at NARI clinic in Bhosari has been providing drugs to 700 people. At our Model Colony centre,we hope to provide drugs to around 2,000 people, which will include the 700 who are on treatment.
However,the wait list is long. As many as 21,381 have registered for anti-retroviral therapy at Sassoon Hospital. Doctors said the treatment would begin only after tests show a drop in their CD4 count levels. The ART centre,set up five years ago,has 5,642 patients on medication now.
Officials said over 9,000 people have been shifted to the link ART centres at Satara,Solapur,Ahmednagar,Nashik and other places. As many as 798 patients have dropped out of the programme. There have been 883 deaths of people who were on ART in five years; they had succumbed to opportunistic infections. There has also been an increasing demand for second-line ART drugs,and 125 have been referred to JJ Hospital,Mumbai.
Anti-retroviral therapy has the potential to increase the life expectancy of people living with HIV, says Col K Shanmuganandan,in-charge of the ART centre at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC). The AFMC had started its ART Centre a year ago and nearly 2,000 are on medication here. YCM Hospital,Pimpri,also has an ART centre.
Institute of Infectious Diseases director and private practitioner Dr Sanjay Pujari said there was a need for more drugs as the treatment guidelines were constantly changing. At present,ART is given to those whose CD4 count is less than 300 or 350. There are countries where medication is started irrespective of the CD4 count.