71 HIV-positive patients were identified in Chattogram this year – 44 men, 18 women and nine children
Rokeya Begum (not her real name) was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) around two years ago. Once conceived, she got worried about the chances of her baby contracting the disease as well.
In June this year, she gave birth to her baby at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Her child was found to be HIV-free. Like her, 19 more HIV-infected women gave birth to healthy babies in the city.
The HIV-positive women gave birth to healthy babies under the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) service at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH).
"The mothers are breastfeeding their new-born children," said PMTCT Project Director Md Ali Hossain, adding that all 19 children are in good health.
Launched in 2013, the PMTCT programme aims to save babies born to HIV-positive women from being infected from the virus.
This year, the same programme was also launched at the Memon Mother Care Hospital of the Chattogram City Corporation.
In 2019, 71 HIV-positive patients were identified in Chattogram. Of them, 44 were men, 18 women and nine were children, according to the information from CMCH's Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) centre.
Ten of the patients succumbed to the disease – five men, four women and a child.
According to government data, there are currently 421 HIV patients in Chattogram.
Dr Shahanara Chowdhury, head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department and the focal point of the PMTCT, told The Business Standard that 19 children are undergoing regular health check-ups.
She further said, "Before the delivery, a pregnant woman undergoes six health tests. But from now on, seven examinations are carried out including the HIV test to prevent infection of the baby."
Dr AQM Sirajul Islam, former head of the Skin and Venereal Disease Department at the CMCH and an expert on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), said with proper treatment an HIV patient can survive many years.
"Instead of calling HIV a deadly disease, it can now be called a curable disease," he added.
A man from Raozan in Chattogram was diagnosed with HIV infection in 1994. "He is still alive. Like him, many others are leading a healthy life after treatment," Prof Sirajul added.
A rally was arranged at the Chattogram Medical College Hospital on Sunday to mark the World AIDS Day. Beginning from the main entrance of the hospital, the rally ended at the college campus.