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India Wakes up to HIV-H1N1 Co-infection

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New Delhi: With India reporting several cases of co–infection of H1N1 swine flu with HIV, and Maharashtra even confirming deaths in this category, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has dispatched an advisory to all its 217 antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres asking them to report any such cases of co–infection.

Early data from countries suggest that people co–infected with H1N1 and HIV are not at increased risk of severe or fatal illness, provided these patients are receiving ART. This would come as reassuring news for countries where HIV treatment coverage with ART drugs is good.

However, according to the WHO’s estimates, around 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Of these, only 4 million were receiving ART at the end of 2008.

India is one of the countries where coverage with ART is still not that high. Of the 23 lakh estimated cases of HIV in the country, only 2.4 lakh are undergoing ART. This means HIV patients in India need to be extra careful about H1N1 symptoms.

Speaking to TOI, NACO director general K Sujatha Rao said, “At the recent chief ministers’ conference, the Maharashtra government reported two deaths of H1N1 patients who were found to be HIV positive. We have therefore started to keep a tab of H1N1 infection in the country’s HIV community and have sent an advisory to all our ART centres asking them to educate patients about H1N1.”

According to the WHO, swine flu is spreading four times faster than other viruses and 40% of the fatalities are young adults in good health. More than 2,180 people around the world have died from the virus since it emerged in April.

“This virus travels at an unbelievable, almost unheard of speed,” WHO DG Margaret Chan said. “In six weeks, it has travelled the same distance that other viruses take six months to cover. Around 40% of the fatalities concern young adults – in good health – who die of a viral fever in five to seven days. This is the most worrying fact. Up to 30% of people in densely populated countries risk getting infected,” Chan added.

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Source: Times of India




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