Patients responding well to HIV treatment -GUM clinic

Stabroek News
November 22, 2002

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One hundred and twenty-eight HIV positive patients started a treatment of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in April administered free by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

Dr Michael Ali, acting head of the Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic, said the patients' response so far has been favourable. Ali was speaking at a press briefing held by the National AIDS Committee (NAC)/Regional AIDS Committees (RAC) on Wednesday at the Methodist Outreach Centre.

The GUM clinic commenced administering the drugs on April 8 soon after the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Company (GPC) started to locally manufacture ARVs. Dr Ali said patients receiving treatment are those who presented signs and symptoms as a result of HIV infection. They receive the drugs after an initial stage of counselling and once they have given their consent.

Prior to the treatment the patients have to show symptoms including persistent fever, recurrent oral thrush, pruritus (itching), weight loss and frequent diarrhoea. Dr Ali said after going on the medications those symptoms abated in most patients.

He said a patient without these symptoms would not be given the drug as there is need for the clinic to measure the patient's response which is done through observing the symptoms. "If you are not ill you would not get well," the doctor noted.

He said some of the patients have put on weight and have reported feeling better. "Side effects have been minimal and even in the initiation phase the drugs were well tolerated," he reported.

One major concern has been the lack of colour coding of the various drugs. He said currently all the capsules are white but this issue is being addressed. As the number of patients being placed on treatment increases, Dr Ali said there will be a need for at least another doctor at the clinic.

There are now two full-time doctors and one part-time.

Head of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), Dr Morris Edwards reported that there have been 235 reported AIDS cases for the year 2002 from January to June. Eighteen of these are children up to 14 years.

In the age group 1-4 there are 12 infected persons; 5 to 14 - six; 15 to 19 - four; 20 to 24 - 17; 25 to 29 - 44; 30 to 34 - 50; 35 to 39 - 32; 40 to 44 -17; 45 to 49 - 13; 50 to 54 - 7; 55 to 59 -4; 60+ - 8 and unknown, 21 (tests returned positive but no record of gender).

Males comprise 145, females 75 and unknowns 15.

At the press conference regional representatives from the different regions reported on what they have been doing for the past year.

A member of the National AIDS Committee, Desiree Edghill spoke about a competition being held for workplaces in recognition of their responses to the virus.

The competition is being organised by the NAC, RAC and NAPS and they will welcome entries directly from workplaces and nominations.

Among the issues to be judged are raising awareness of HIV/AIDS among workers, developing a workplace policy on HIV/AIDS, facilitating training of employees to prevent HIV transmission and developing workplace programmes that include awareness campaigns, condom distribution, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases among others.

Edghill said a panel of judges will be organised by the three organisations and the Occupational Safety & Health Unit, Ministry of Labour.

Entries should show evidence of good practices at the workplace and any attempts to sustain or share the benefits of this experience. The campaign will run from December 1 this year to the same time next year. World AIDS Day is celebrated on the first day of December each year.

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