Srinagar, Dec 01: In a noteworthy development, Jammu and Kashmir is all set to establish viral load testing facilities for AIDS patients at SKIMS Soura and GMC Jammu, the initiative is expected to provide a healing touch for the patients.
Deputy Director, Jammu and Kashmir AIDS Control Society (JKACS), Imtiyaz Ahmad Khan said they have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with SKIMS Soura and GMC Jammu to do viral load testing which will be a healing touch for the patients.
“Otherwise the samples of viral load are sent for testing to PGI Chandigarh. Within two months, the testing facility will be started at SKIMS and GMC Jammu for AIDS patients,” he said.
The Deputy Director said since the inception of JKACS project, 6,305 cases have been registered with ART centres in J&K. The JKACS provides a comprehensive package of care, support and treatment to patients.
“In Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, since its inception, 1,452 HIV-positive patients have died, while 3,583 patients are alive on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and there are 521 let out patients,” he said.
Khan said the prevalence of HIV in Jammu and Kashmir is lowest in the country as compared to the rest of the States/Union Territories. “We have been improving the testing facilities for patients,” he said.
The stigma and discrimination associated with the disease is a great hindrance because of which people are not coming forward for HIV testing.
“HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding, multi-person usage of needles,” said an official of JKACS.
He said without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens the immune system to the point that you have AIDS. “A person suffering from AIDS is “unfortunately” often regarded as a stigma in society and such people become victims of ostracism, rejection and discrimination,” he said.
As per doctors drug addicts are at a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and if they are sexually active, they transmit this to their partners as well.
“Under National AIDS control program, patients are given proper care, support and treatment and various services at delivery points like ART Centre, ART Plus centres, LAC, LAC Plus, ICTCs,” he said.
The main objective of the Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) Centre is to provide a comprehensive package of Care-support and Treatment services to persons living with HIV/AIDS(PLHIV).
The objectives of ART centres are to register and provide Care, Support and Treatment services to all PLHIV and monitor patients in HIV care (Pre-ART) regularly, identify eligible PLHIV requiring ART and initiate them or ART in a timely manner as per the NACO guidelines, provide ARV & OI drugs to eligible PLHIVs, treatment adherence and counselling services before and during treatment to ensure high levels of drugs adherence.
He also said that the Jammu and Kashmir government provides financial assistance of Rs 12000/annum to all the PLHIVs of the UT of J&K.
“The other objectives of ART are to counsel and educate PLHIV, caregiver, guardians and family members on nutritional requirements, hygiene, positive living and also on measures to prevent further transmission of infection, refer patients requiring specialized services (including admission) to other departments/higher facilities/CoE, provide comprehensive package of services including condom and prevention education with a view towards ”Positive Prevention” and ultimately integrating HIV care into general health system for long term sustainability,” the official said.
The world can end AIDS with communities leading the way. That is why the theme for World AIDS Day this year is ‘Let communities lead’, and much more than a celebration of the achievements of communities, it is a call to action to enable and support communities in their leadership roles.