Scientists at the Indian Council of Medical Research- National AIDS Research Institute plan to study the prevalence of antibodies against Covid-19 in HIV positive persons at the Anti-Retroviral Treatment Centre.
The serological test (IgG antibody) will indicate if a person had a previous Covid-19 infection. Participants with IgG antibodies will be followed every three months to study the duration for which these antibodies remain in the body.
Dr Manisha Ghate, Head, Division of Clinical Sciences and principal investigator of the study said approximately 410 people living with HIV will be involved in this study. She added, “It will also give information on whether there are any specific characteristics, risks or protective factors associated with asymptomatic or mild SARS-CoV-2 infection among persons living with HIV (PLHIV)”.
Neutralisation antibody tests for SARS- CoV-2 will determine the functional ability of antibodies to prevent a virus infection, and will inform as to whether the antibodies developed are protective or not. The T-cell immune response, which plays an important role in supporting the immune system, will be studied by Dr. Madhuri Thakar, who heads the Immunology and Serology division. This response is useful in defending the body against SARS-CoV-2 from re-invading, by identifying and killing the infected cells, Dr Sheela Godbole, Head, Division of Epidemiology, ICMR-NARI said.
Meanwhile, in June a study was initiated at NARI’s ART centre to understand the knowledge, attitude, and practices among People Living with HIV (PLHIV) towards Covid-19. Around 1,100 participants are involved and the study is underway, Dr Ghate said.
A study was initiated at NARI’s ART centre to understand the knowledge, attitude, and practices among People Living with HIV (PLHIV) towards Covid-19, in June.
Majority welcomed HIV self-test: Study
HIV self-test is an approach where the person collects his or her own specimen (blood or saliva) then performs this test and interprets the results either alone or in presence of someone he or she trusts. While few countries like France, United States and United Kingdom have legally introduced HIV self-test kits, India is yet to adopt such a strategy. Scientists at ICMR- NARI explored the acceptability of an HIV oral self-test across various population groups such as gays, transgenders, truckers and young adults (18-24 years) in Pune district.
A prototype in-country developed HIV oral self-test kit was presented to the participants to help facilitate the interviews and discussions. While conducting this study, Dr Sandip Patil and Dr Amrita Rao realised that most of the participants welcomed the self-test as it was easy to use, could be undertaken in privacy, showed quick results and allayed the trouble of going to the hospital.
“We were convinced that HIV self-test could add the necessary momentum to the ongoing National AIDS Control Programme,” Dr Samiran Panda, principal investigator and Director, ICMR-NARI said. “It was a qualitative study conducted from March to July, 2019 where responses were obtained from 61 in-depth-interviews and 23 focus group discussions,” he added. The findings were recently published in Infectious Diseases: Research and Treatment. “None of the participants perceived that social harm of any kind could result from the introduction of this self-test. However, the participants did feel a need for clear messaging on how to do the test”, said Dr Rao, the co-principal investigator, adding that HIV self-testing has the potential to assist the programme to help people know their status.
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