An Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) and DOTS centre facilties to patients of Ayurvedic college Paprola, were ingurated by Trilok Kapoor (Chairman Wool procurement and marketing federation HP) this week. This is the seventh ICTC in District Kangra established under the National AIDS Control Programme. On the occasion Dr RK Sood Dsitrict AIDS Programme Officer shared that six ICTCs are already functional Zonal Hospital Dharamsala (Room No 402), Civil Hospital Dehra, Civil Hospital Palampur, Civil Hospital Nurpur, Civil Hospital Kangra and Department of Microbiology, Medical College Tanda. In addition 24 x 7 ICTCs have been established at Panchuhki, Nagrota, Chamunda, Gangath and Jwali. Here confidential HIV testing services are available. Patients can walk into the centre without any OPD slip and avail the free facilities.
Dr Sood, District AIDS Programme Officer, Kangra shared that Govt services are better option than private labs: In the Govt. ICTC, each blood sample is tested thrice using different rapid tests to confirm the report, as compared to private labs which usually conduct only one test. ELISA is also done at ICTC Dharamshala. Moreover private Labs donâ€™t have a counsellor who can help the client. Moreover, the test is totally free of cost at ICTC. So travelling some distance to the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre is worthwhile, as the services are better.
ICTCs play a crucial role in early detection of HIV in those who are infected, as well as in promoting behavioral change among at risk populations so as to prevent HIV infection. Activites at Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers (ICTCs) include (1) Early detection of HIV; (2) Provision of basic information on modes of transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS so as to promote behavioral change and reduce vulnerability; (3) Link people with other HIV prevention, care and treatment services; and (4) Populations who are more vulnerable to HIV or practice high risk behavior are the target for counseling & testing at ICTCs. (Outreach activity is conducted every Saturday for migrants, underserved populations and high risk groups).
Under the National youth Day campaign, youth are being made aware of the need to know HIV status. People need to learn their HIV status- if they are negative they can be relaxed and take precaution for future to remain negative. If they test positive they can avail the benefit of free treatment, which is available at Shimla and Hamirpur by HPSACS, and live long & healthy life with Anti Retroviral Therapy. As on 30 June 10, a total of 4641 people in the state have tested positive for HIV in the state of which 1188 are from the District of Kangra.
With the advent of effective medicines- Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART), PLHIV can live longer and healthier lives, akin to lifelong treatment for hypertension which prevents complications. This treatment enables people living with HIV to enjoy longer, healthier lives. The benefit of (Free) ART can be availed only if we know our HIV status at an early time, akin to detection heart disease by ECG. The vast majority of positive people in the world are unaware of their HIV Status. People fail to be tested for HIV for many reasons: lack of access to testing services, fear of stigma and discrimination, fear the test will be positive, and lack of access to treatment. This means that people miss opportunity to get timely treatment, care and support. A HIV positive person can look healthy. As person is asymptomatic for a long time, we cannot know HIV status from the looks, if he is unaware of his status he can continue to unknowingly infect others. Early testing is also important for prevention, as it prevents partners and unborn children from getting infected. Testing during pregnancy is important in prevention of parent to child transmission.
A DOTS centre was also started for Free TB medicines to patients. A high HIV positivity rate is also observed amongst the new TB patients. HIV is the strongest known risk factor for progression of latent TB infection to active TB disease. HIV positive will have higher relapse rate after successful treatment. Consequently, the dual burden of HIV and tuberculosis greatly amplifies the harmful effects of each disease. Testing of TB patients for HIV will result in detection of HIV and early AIDS treatment.