3,500 HIV pa­tients in city stopped treat­ment

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Live - - FRONT PAGE - Aayushi Pratap

MUM­BAI: Around 3,500 HIVin­fected pa­tients in Mum­bai have aban­doned treat­ment be­tween 2013 and 2016 and nearly 90% have not been traced, says data from the Mum­bai District Aids Con­trol So­ci­ety (MDACS).

Ex­perts said the trend of HIV pa­tients aban­don­ing treat­ment — re­ferred as ‘loss-to-fol­low-up pa­tients’ — not only re­sults in in­creased HIV-re­lated deaths, but is also a ma­jor pub­lic health con­cern be­cause they can spread the dis­ease in the com­mu­nity. The fact that a ma­jor­ity of these

pa­tients are not trace­able means the trans­mis­sion of the virus could be ac­tive, said an of­fi­cial from the Na­tional Aids Con­trol Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NACO).

When pa­tients drop out, they are no longer mon­i­tored by the anti-retro-vi­ral treat­ment (ART) cen­tres, which dis­trib­ute the medicines for free. Ex­perts said they will be more likely to trans­mit the in­fec­tion in the com­mu­nity.

“When an HIV pa­tient stops the treat­ment, the virus mul­ti­plies in their body. This pa­tient will know­ingly or un­know­ingly spread the in­fec­tion in the com­mu­nity ei­ther by un­safe sex or use of com­mon sy­ringes,” he said.

Another con­cern is that if treat­ment is aban­doned mid-way, they could de­ve­l­ope drug re­sis­tance, mak­ing it harder for drugs to work if the pa­tient de­cides to start med­i­ca­tion again.

“Stop­ping the treat­ment means you are al­low­ing the virus to ac­quire drug-re­sis­tant forms. Treat­ment op­tions for ad­vanced forms of the in­fec­tion are largely lim­ited,” said a doc­tor from Sir JJ Hos­pi­tal, By­culla.

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