Experts say HIV manageable

Guwahati, June 15: All the noise being generated over the Mangaldoi incident notwithstanding, HIV is, with the availability of modern treatment procedures, now categorised as a “clinically manageable disease”, says H.C. Barman, former joint director of the Assam State AIDS Control Society.

“That means a person with HIV can live for a minimum of another 20 years if he or she adheres to the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART),” says S.I. Ahmed, a physician and leading AIDS activist of the region.

“It’s like blood pressure,” says Barman. “If you are on drugs you’re safe. If not, you may suffer a stroke.”

Ahmed, though, is skeptical of figures available abroad that people have gained up to 36 additional years with ART. “That’s because we have more secondary infections here,” says Ahmed.

Assam now requires about 1,000 units (of 350ml each) of blood on a daily basis.

The availability figures, though, are dismal and stand at about 650 units, which makes it easier for professional blood donors such as Anowar (name changed) to operate.

Anowar, allegedly in cahoots with people operating at the Mangaldoi civil hospital who new about his HIV status, is believed to have spread the virus to at least four people at Mangaldoi over the past months.

D.P. Bajaj, chairman of the blood bank of Marwari Hospital and Research Centre in the city, blames the government and “some private hospitals” for the state of affairs.

“The shortfall in the blood supply is a result of lack of awareness among people but let’s not forget that some people in government hospitals promote professional donors because they get a cut of the money such donors make,” he says.

Assam has 62 licensed blood banks of which the state health department runs 25, central government agencies run 11 and private organisations run 26.

It is in such a scenario that chief minister Tarun Gogoi today announced that the state would “closely monitor all blood banks, both government and private, to make the system foolproof”.

“We welcome the decision but I hope the government doesn’t end up harassing private hospitals while turning a blind eye to government set-ups,” says Bajaj.

The situation, meanwhile, seems grim. While most in the health department have gone into silent mode since the Mangaldoi incident hit the headlines, sources said the licences of at least five private blood banks in the state were not being renewed “for not adhering to national blood bank policy guidelines”.

“Let’s also talk about the government-owned blood banks here,” says Bajaj. “We have reservations about the operating procedures of many of them. Not maybe the one at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) but many others. There is no accountability in government-run blood banks. It’s been 48 hours at least since the Mangaldoi story broke and not one person has been brought to book.”

Establishments such as the Mangaldoi civil hospital are believed to be conducting blood transfusions based on “spot tests”, when the minimum time required to thoroughly test a unit of blood would take about six hours. Mandatory tests would include not just tests for HIV but also Hepatitis B and C, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases.

Hafiz Ali (name changed), whose wife was a recipient of Anowar’s blood, for example, yesterday told The Telegraph that the transfusion took place almost immediately “after Anowar was put through a test”. “If this is what happened it would be absolutely wrong,” said U.C. Dutta, head of the blood bank at GMCH, who was a member of the eight-member team that visited Mangaldoi today.

It is, of course, an entirely different matter that the hospital authorities allegedly knew of Anowar’s status but allowed him to donate blood to various patients.
Source - telegraph india


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