HIV’s Unlikely Conspirator

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If NACO had implemented its HIV testing programme for infants, would hundreds of them be alive? Divya Gupta reports

EVER SINCE she got married in 1997, 32-year old Gurwinder has lost her closest family members at regular intervals of four years. In 1998, she lost her first husband. In 2002, she lost her 3-month old son. In 2006, her second husband passed away and a day later, so did her 3-month-old daughter, Jaspreet. Gurwinder was only aware of her second husband’s HIV status. Like her, it was positive.

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CASE STUDY 1

SUNEETA, 27
JJ Colony, Rohini, Delhi
A housewife, Suneeta found out she was HIV positive in 2007, two years after her husband did. Last week, he took their 5-month-old infant to the paediatric centers at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and the Kalawati Saran Children Hospital to inquire about an HIV DNA PCR test. He was informed it would cost Rs 3,000. In a good month, he barely makes an income of Rs 2,500

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Surrounded by three other HIV positive women, Gurwinder finally broke down while describing Jaspreet. “She was so beautiful. Even the hospital staff who sometimes treated me badly would say so,” she said. Her candid personal account emboldened the other women. Bindu, 37, started talking of her own infant daughter, born in 2003. As she turned six weeks, Bindu was advised by Din Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital to wait for 18 months before getting her daughter tested for HIV. Unaware of her own HIV positive status until a year later, Bindu breast fed her daughter for one-and-a-half years. She was diagnosed HIV positive when twoand- a-half years old and died in 2006.

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