Doc living with the fear of AIDS

After an accidental jab, Nair hospital resident in search of a miracle drug

MUMBAI: It was just a jab of the needle, but its going to haunt this   28-year-old doctor for months, years and, perhaps, the rest   of his life.

Four days ago, resident doctor Anil Patil (name changed) was trying to inject an Aids patient when he accidentally jabbed himself. Unfortunately, the incident occurred while Patil was trying to locate a vein and the needle had already pricked the woman a few times. Since then the resident doctor of BMC-run BYL Nair Hospital has been running from one hospital to another in search of a miracle drug that can protect him from the deadly virus.

Though they treat scores of HIV positive patients every day, Patil and his colleagues got extremely jittery after Mondays incident and began making frantic calls to senior doctors. Thats because the patient is suffering from multiple ailments like meningitis and tuberculosis and, most importantly, she has not been responding to any Hiv/Aids drugs of late.

“She is suffering from the resistant type of the virus and we got really worried that Patil would contract the virus,” said one of the resident doctors from the medicine department.

Sumitra Deb Roy, for DNA

A first-year post-graduate student of medicine, Patil immediately rushed to the anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centre of the JJ Hospital where he was put on the first line of HIV drugs. He has to continue with the regimen that is known for its horrific side-effects for at least a month.

Patil resumed work the next day itself, but the irony of his situation can’t escape anyone. The side-effects of the ART like nausea and symptoms of gastroenteritis have started showing up. Since the HIV virus can lie dormant for years, he will have to undergo regular tests and keep a close watch for symptoms.

He says knowing the patients medical history he had taken precautions like wearing double gloves.  

“But I was so engrossed in finding her vein that I didn’t realise when the needle pricked me,” he said. Patil has not informed his parents about the incident, though he has told his elder brother, who is also a doctor.

According to him, such things are an occupational hazard as most doctors in their first year end up with accidental needle pricks at least two to three times. But that doesnt mean theyre immune to the fear. Patil says one of his close friends quit medicine altogether after such a scare.

In the last six months, about 20 doctors from the states largest JJ hospital have got needle injuries from HIVAIDS patients. Though low, there is a risk of transmission through accidental needle injury. According to studies worldwide, the overall risk of infection from accidental exposure to infected needles is 0.3%.

Head of JJ Hospitals ART centre Dr Alaka Deshpande, who treated Patil, said his injury looked superficial. “Doctors have to be more careful and follow the universal precautions,” she added. However, she said accidental pricks are known to traumatise doctors as well as their families.  

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