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AIDS meet fails CD-4 test

Siliguri, April 26: A CD-4 machine at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) still proves to be an elusive dream.

CD-4 cell count in a positive person needs to be determined before doctors decide whether anti-retroviral therapy (ART) should start or not, and to find out whether the medication is working on those who have started it already. In the absence of CD-4 machines at NBMCH, blood samples have to be sent once a week to the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine for the test.

No immediate solution to this problem came out from a multi-tier meeting, involving everyone from the grassroots to the higher levels working on AIDS prevention and control, held at the hospital superintendent’s office today.

The meeting was spearheaded by Gitanjali Kumari, the representative of National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) in Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, and attended by D.N. Goswami, the programme officer of the West Bengal State AIDS Prevention & Control Society. The two doctors arrived here from Calcutta today for a review of the AIDS treatment facilities at the referral hospital.

Sachindra Das, the secretary of Sangobaddho, a network of HIV positive persons in the region, pointed out 14 areas where there was scope for improvement. He was backed by representatives of several NGOs, including the West Bengal Voluntary Health Association, CINI, the Society for Community Intervention and Research, the Naxalbari Integrated Development Society and the Darjeeling AIDS Control Centre.

The main problem seemed to be the fact that the number of HIV detections and the subsequent need for treatment was increasing day by day. Sangobaddho’s membership has gone up to include 700 positive persons, 140 of them having started ART at NBMCH.

“Our number one demand was the installation of a CD-4 machine,” Das said.

Gitanjali said though NACO has sanctioned two new CD-4 machines for Bengal, their arrival is being held up due to a major transition in the National AIDS Programme (NACP). “NACP III is being taken up now, and all its components are being revised. Implementation may take one or two months,” she added.

The sanction, however, had come through almost one-and-a-half years ago.

On starting ART for children at NBMCH, Gitanjali said the number of patients requiring such treatment needed to be at least 10 before this facility could start. Currently, four children are receiving ART at the hospital at half the adult dose, though Naco has a separate paediatric regime.

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