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22.02.2006 Health

Anti-retroviral therapy is meant for certified AIDS patients

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Sunyani (B/A) Feb. 22, GNA - Dr Albert K. Amankwah, a Senior Medical Officer at the Regional Hospital in Sunyani on Wednesday said anti-retroviral therapy to be supplied to all regional hospitals by next month would be administered to only certified HIV/AIDS patients. He said the criteria for selecting such patients would include one's fitness, laboratory parameters and adherence to counsel in line with national policy guidelines for the management of the drug and HIV/AIDS.

The Senior Medical Officer told GNA in an interview the National AIDS Control Programme had already installed facilities at the Regional Hospital in preparation for administering the anti-retroviral therapy. Dr Amankwah emphasized that the Hospital was concentrating on the management and treatment of opportunistic infections, which he said killed people with AIDS faster.

He appealed to persons who had tested positive for the virus to avail themselves before the treatment of such opportunistic infections.

"The treatment is to prevent them from dying from common diseases such as diarrhoea and tuberculosis, which are treatable and increase their life span," he stated.

Dr Amankwah noted that the Hospital had been saddled with huge debts due to the non-payment of medical bills by patients although they were entitled to pay only 55,000 cedis per month for the treatment of opportunistic infections, laboratory investigations and anti-retroviral therapy, which was yet to be included in the package.

Mr Stephen Kwame Korang, a senior pharmacist at the Hospital stated that the treatment was virtually free but the payment of 55,000 cedis was to keep the system running, adding, "the street value for the anti-retroviral drug cost some two million cedis and this had made the government to subsidise it".

He said under very critical conditions, various interventions had been sought by the Hospital authorities to rope in the families of such persons so that they could help settle outstanding debts but not much success had been achieved.

The senior pharmacist reiterated that the Hospital had supported victims of AIDS to form groups and given requisite employable skills to enable them to gain meaningful employment as well as paying their medical bills. Mr Korang said a patient did not have to register with the National

Health Insurance Scheme before he/she could enjoy the package since it was a different programme altogether. Under a national policy for the management of the pandemic, all regional hospitals are to be supplied with anti-retroviral drug by next month. Currently, the drug is being administered on a pilot basis in four hospitals throughout the country, namely Korle-Bu, Komfo Anokye, Agomanya and Koforidua hospitals. 22 Feb. 06