IMPHAL, Feb 11 – HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) co-infection among Persons Living with HIV(PLHIV) has become a growing public health concern in North East particularly in Manipur.Former ART in-charge Dr K Priyokumar of JNIMS hospital here said though PLHIV have received a new lease of life following introduction of ART drugs since 2004, the HIV and HCV co-infected individuals were literally left to their own fates in the absence of any government policy for its treatment in NE particularly in Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
Sharing his experiences at a day-long media sensitisation session on HCV held under the aegis of Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE) here yesterday, Dr Priyokumar expressed the need to establish a separate mechanism to address the growing health issue.
He said, HCV is transmitted through blood transfusion, sexual intercourse and sharing of syringes among drug users.
Stating that there is no scientific data of HCV in India, he said he found more than 20 per cent of the total 3,900 PLHIV who are on ART were co-infected by HIV and HCV in his personal study during his tenure at the hospital.
“So many PLHIVs in the State are dying not because of HIV but because of HCV co-infection”, he added. But unlike HIV/AIDS, the HCV can be cured if diagnosed and treated early.
He informed that unlike India, countries such as Thailand and Malaysia have started free HCV treatment since 2009. CoNE president RK Nalinikanta drew the attention of both the governments at State and Centre to frame a policy on HCV epidemic and it’s immediate inclusion in the list of State illness assistance fund.
An HIV and HCV co-infected survivor L Deepak whose treatment costs more than Rs 6.5 lakh a year said that only ART does not work if a PLHIV is co-infected (HIV and HCV). Most of my friends died because of HCV. He heads an Imphal based network of PLHIV called MNP plus.
The reason for sidelining the HIV and HCV co-infection epidemic could be because of lack of awareness and high cost of treatment, he added and urged the authority concerned to do something to save the victims.
According to Manipur State AIDS Control Society, the State with hardly 0.2 per cent of India’s population is contributing nearly 8 per cent of India’s total HIV positive cases and has become one of the six high prevalence States.There are more than 40,000 PLHIV in the State.