India on the lookout for HIV-H1N1 co-infection

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.

Times Of India

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.

WHO has already said that in many countries, the virus had overtaken others to become the most prevalent flu strain.

The UN agency has said that people with immunodeficiency diseases — including AIDS — will most likely be vulnerable to health complications from the H1N1 strain. “HIV and the new flu strain could also mix together in a dangerous way, as has occurred with HIV and tuberculosis,” the WHO said.

HIV-infected persons should be considered as a high risk and high priority group for preventive and therapeutic strategies against influenza, WHO added.

Antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu and Relenza decrease the duration of virus excretion and the severity of illness when used for treatment of ill patients, and may also prevent illness when used for prophylaxis. “HIV patients showing any H1N1 infection symptoms should immediately be put on prophylactic treatment,” an expert said.



Comments are closed.