Campaign to curb TB infection among HIV infected launched
POKHARA, Dec 3: In yet another attempt to help prolong the lives of HIV infected people, the government for the first time on Sunday started distributing medicines to prevent those with AIDS from contracting tuberculosis (TB). Tuberculosis (TB) is held responsible for the prevalence of morbidity, mortality, and suffering among people with HIV infection in Nepal.
The nationwide campaign to distribute the drug called Isoniazid, which is to used treat tuberculosis (TB) and prevent infection due to contact with tuberculosis bacteria, has started from Pokhara.
Health Secretary Praveen Mishra launched the campaign by administering the drug to HIV patients in Pokhara at the Western Regional Hospital.
According to Secretary Mishra, the government initiated the campaign to check TB infection among HIV patients as they are highly vulnerable to tuberculosis and the cases of HIV patients succumbing to TB have increased lately.
Secretary Mishra also informed that the campaign has been simultaneously started from the five main hospitals in the country. Besides the Western Regional Hospital, Isoniazid distribution service is available at Bir Hospital and Teku Hosptial in the capital as well as at Seti Zonal Hospital.
Director at National Center for AIDS and STD Control, Dr Krishna Kumar Rai said that the medicine is very effective in preventing TB infection in HIV patients. "It will help ensure a quality life for the HIV patients as it will reduce the chances of their catching TB," said Rai.
He also informed that only those HIV patients who have not already developed TB can use the medicine. The medicine, which is prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO), is not only effective but also affordable.
HIV patients are prescribed to take the 300 mg of the medicine each day for six months. "Researches have shown that after completing the full course of Isoniazid, HIV patients can become immune to TB bacteria for at least five years," Dr Rai informed.
According to Rajendra Panta, director at National Tuberculosis Center, TB is one of the leading causes of death among people living with HIV in Nepal, with most of 5000 to 7000 HIV deaths reported annually, resulting from TB infection.
"The Isoniazid should not be administered to the HIV patients who are already suffering from TB. The medication is only for those who have been receiving antiretroviral and have not been infected with TB", said Panta.
According to the data, there are over 51,000 HIV positive in Nepal, out of which only 8000 are taking ARVs.
In the first phase of the campaign, Panta informed that the aim is to provide Isoniazid to those who have been taking ARV.
The ARV costs over Rs 200,000 per patient, while the Isoniazid costs less than 3000 for six months.
Panta also informed that Isoniazid will be administered to 500 patients in the Western region in the first phase. Panta further informed that pregnant
women living with HIV will receive the medicine in the second phase of the campaign.