While the number of HIV–positive pregnant women in the city came down drastically in 2009, the civic authorities are not rejoicing. For more than a triumph of their preventive programmes, it turned out to be a case of outright fudging of numbers over the years, which they have finally got it right.
The Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS), in its process of meticulously evaluating data pertaining to HIV trend in the city, came across the discrepancies. Much to their surprise, the MDACS found that the Integrated Centres for Testing and Counselling (ICTC), the frontline centres to fight HIV, had been grossly misreporting figures over the last five years.
MDACS project director Dr SS Kudalkar, whose team fished out the numerical errors, told TOI that new infections among pregnant women were misreported to a great extent. “Of all the new infections reported in pregnant women in Mumbai every year, about 25% to 30% names were of same patients registered in various centres,” he said. There were many instances where patients registered using a fake name, and so we had exaggerated figures, he said.
Kudalkar said that of the 3,000 new infections reported among pregnant women in the last five years, about 800–1,000 were mere repetitions or bogus. Worse, it was found that of the 86 ICTC centres, as many as 64 were sending across incorrect or manipulated figures, thereby showing higher incidence of HIV in the city. According to 2009 figures, new infections among pregnant women have come down to 609 as opposed to 756 in 2008 and 1,070 in 2007.
The problem was aggravated by the fact that many patients would deliberately hide their HIV status. So, every time a pregnant woman visited different hospitals, she registered herself as a new patient, said Dr Arpita Paul, Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) consultant. The statistical slip up came to light as MDACS started tracking pregnant women in order to have a more comprehensive data.
Paul added that there were instances where patients who tested positive were averse to go to the same hospital again. We also have instances where the same patient had registered using a Hindu and a Muslim name in different centres, she said.
But, all these have been rectified now. The entire system of registration has been computerized. Any patient who visits an ICTC centres will be permanently logged in our system, said Kudalkar. Now, ICTC centres send data on a daily basis and so error margins are nil, he said. Fresh data evaluated will be used for better understanding of the epidemic, he said.
Source :Times of India