Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Readers' queries relating to HIV/AIDS will be answered in this section by a special panel of experts including

vinay kunkarniVinay Kulkarni, a physician specialising in treatment related to HIV/AIDS. He is associated with Prayas Health, a care and support organisation in Pune

padma govindan Eldred Tellis is director of the Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust, Mumbai, and a member of NACO’s Technical Resource Group for programmes related to injecting drug users. He has worked extensively in various parts of India and Asia developing and replicating programmes for IDUs

padma govindan Padma Govindan, founder and co-director of the Shakti Centre, a sexuality advocacy and research non-profit organisation in Chennai

magdalene jeyarathnam Magdalene Jeyarathnam, founder-director, Center for Counselling, Chennai

Click here to send any queries you may have

I took an HIV test in Apollo hospital, Kolkata. They reported negative results for HIV1/HIV2 antibodies and in the test report it was written that the test method used was Enhanced Chemiluminescence. The lab technician verbally told me that the machine is called VITROS ECiQ Immunodiagnostic System. It is from Johnson and Johnson and it is fully automated. They also told me that this assay was one step ahead of traditional ELISA (in terms of sensitivity and specificity). Is this information true or do I need to have another ELISA test from a government hospital?

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Incidentally, I crossed the window period of three months when I took the test.

Don’t split hairs over this. You have got the test done at a good lab that assures quality. So just believe in it.  

-- Vinay Kulkarni


I had unprotected sex on October 26, 2009. The other person is quite healthy. I don't know whether he has any problem or not but he looks quite healthy and active. I got myself HIV spot test after a month and tested negative. I tested again after 3 months, the same test and it was negative. But I am so scared that due to anxiety I developed an aversion to food and get loose motions. Please help me. What is the window period? Is 3 months fine or should I get tested again? I am not able to concentrate on my work

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The window period of 3 months is long enough to decide if one got infected or not. It seems that you are not infected. You have tested negative because you have not got infected this time. However, please keep in mind that even if a person is looking healthy they might be infected. One cannot say a person has HIV or not by just their appearance. HIV testing is the only way of knowing if one has HIV or not.   

--Magdalene Jeyarathnam


I had a sexual exposure (oral vaginal sucking) on February 13 and I am so tense I am thinking of suicide. Which is the most sensitive test /I can do in the three weeks (from 13.02.2010 to 06.03.2010) and what will be the expense and where can I do the test in Kerala?

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Please do not be anxious. The chances of infection are very, very remote. You can approach a testing and counselling centre in your area for reassurance. The list of NACO testing centres is available at:


--Editor, hivaidsonline.in 


A person from a poor family has got AIDS. They are looking for any help that will enable him to survive for a long time. Can you help me with information of centres in Andhra Pradesh where they can get help?

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Antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS is given free of charge through government hospitals all over the country. There are a number of centres in Andhra Pradesh. Details of centres are available on the website of the National Aids Control Organisation:

ART centres in India 

Counselling centres in India 

State Aids Prevention and Control Societies 

--Editor, hivaidsonline.in 


What led to free provision of ART to people living with HIV/AIDS? Free provision of ART through the government was announced in November 2003 and started on April 1, 2004

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There were many factors that led to the government's decision: globally, PLHA organisations had been advocating for free ART; in early 2001, Indian companies forced drug prices down to about Rs 7,000 per year from more than 10 times that much; that same year, the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS called for additional funding for ART; and in 2003, WHO and UNAIDS declared that lack of access to ART was a "global health emergency" and launched the 3x5 initiative to reach treatment to 3 million people in developing countries by the end of 2005.

--Editor, hivaidsonline.in


I am HIV-positive since three years, I am 37 now. I want to know whether TB is unavoidable during the later stages. Can it be avoided with due care? What should be done for that?

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I will not say that TB is inevitable in the later stages but the chances that an HIV infected person will have TB are at least five times more than a person who is not infected with HIV.

It can be avoided to a certain extent by general measures such as good nutrition, regular exercise and institution of ART at an appropriate time. Adult TB is usually due to reactivation of an infection which a majority of us already have. If one does not have pre-existing TB, has no exposure to TB, and if the immune status is maintained, then there would be very low chance of getting TB.

--Vinay Kulkarni 


After how many days of exposure is a PCR test reliable? What are the chances of HIV transmission during drawing of blood if by mistake a used needle is used?

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PCR is a highly specific test but requires a highly sophisticated set-up. Chances of contamination in the laboratory may give false positive results. If done at a reliable place, and it is positive, it means there is infection. However, the chances that the test would be positive at the end of 48 hours is about 40% (which in other words would mean 60% infections will not be picked up). The sensitivity increases to about 95% by the end of one month and to about 98% by the end of another month. All positive results need confirmation and negative ones need repeating the test after a specified time period. 

The chances of infection if a used needle is accidentally used for drawing blood depend upon whether the person for whom the needle was used previously had HIV, how much time has elapsed after the previous use (as HIV is an extremely fragile virus and stays alive outside the body for a very short time). As during blood withdrawal hardly any material from the needle is pushed, the chances are minimal. Theoretically, chances of infection if a contaminated needle causes injury are 0.3% (3 per 1000). 

--Vinay Kulkarni 


1.5 months ago I had cold and cough. I went to a medical practitioner who gave me one injection (single use) which was sealed in a pack. My doubt is: can the syringe used for injection for cold and cough be re-used by drug-users?

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I am not able to understand the question.

No needle should be reused without proper sterilisation. If properly sterilised, say, by autoclaving or boiling for 20 minutes, it can certainly be reused.

If the question is could that needle have been used earlier by a drug user, then it is most unlikely that a packed, new, single use syringe from a quality manufacturer could be a re-used one.

--Vinay Kulkarni


I am a pensioner, doing social service. I am fighting the case of a jawan who was boxing for nine years in the Army, but was sent home for AIDS, allegedly because he had "illicit sex with a sex worker".

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In boxing he represented the Army in the Inter-services tournament. He swears on his mother that he has NOT indulged in such sex. The Army refuses to accept this. I am fighting on the grounds that boxing is a bleeding game, wet-liquid is the requisite media to infect, and therefore, HIV infection was due to the bleeding sport of boxing.  

Even the court is not inclined to listen to this. They want precedents of HIV infection through sports, particularly boxing.  

Do you have any such incident? If so, kindly provide me, or inform the website names where I can find such information. I am to file the review petition by February 25 so I need it at the earliest.  

There are many ways to acquire HIV infection.

There are many people living with HIV in the armed forces and they could have been infected through sex with an infected partner, transfusion of HIV infected blood, or a healthcare procedure, such as an injection, using a needle or blade that was previously used on an HIV positive person and not sterilised after use.

You may wish to question the right of the army to send home a soldier for becoming infected with HIV. It is illegal to fire HIV-positive people in public enterprises.

You may wish to consult the website of the Lawyers Collective HIV /AIDS Unit

(LCHAU). http://www.lawyerscollective.org/hiv-aids 

--Editor, hivaidsonline.in


My brother is an HIV patient. I live with him and participate in every work of my brother. We always eat food from the same pot. Will HIV affect me too?

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HIV is NOT transmitted through sharing food or living together. 

HIV infection can occur through the following routes: 

  • Unprotected sex with a person who is HIV-positive
  • Blood transfusions, skin grafts and organ transplants from someone who is infected
  • From an HIV-positive mother to her baby, during pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding
  • Sharing unsterilised injection equipment previously used by an HIV-positive person.

 --Editor, hivaidsonline.in


If a person has (receptive) oral sex with an HIV infected male when he is suffering from a cough, is there any possibility of transmission?

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HIV is transmitted through body fluids such as semen, blood and saliva. Any person who has sexual contact with an HIV positive person is at risk of acquiring HIV infection. It doesn't matter whether that person has a cough or does not have a cough.

--Editor, hivaidsonline.in


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