Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Swine flu and HIV/AIDS: Influenza A may make HIV patients an easy target

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 2: The Andhra Pradesh State government has been sitting on the
proposal to set up a specialised virology laboratory in Hyderabad, even
as the World Health Organisation said people suffering from
HIV/AIDS are at high risk of contacting swine flu or Influenza A.

Andhra Pradesh ranks high in HIV/AIDS cases with a large number of
persons carrying the immuno-deficiency virus and the present threat of
Influenza A makes them vulnerable to the new problem. With no
specialised testing facility for viral diseases in the State, health
authorities are forced to send the samples to the National Institute of
Virology in Pune.

The State government proposed to set up a virology lab two years ago
after the outbreak of bird flu in parts of the country. Since then the
proposal has been gathering dust and health officials point out that they
are awaiting the specialised equipment. "We are expecting the
equipment in a couple of months. Once it arrives, the lab will be
operational. It may be set up at Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical
and Communicable Diseases," said principal secretary (health) LV
Subrahmanyam.

"The need for a specialised lab to test viral cases is now felt more than
ever. The State has a large population of pigs and birds. There are also
large number of HIV/AIDS cases. This makes the State vulnerable to
cases of bird and swine flu, though such cases have not been reported
earlier. The WHO's assertion that HIV/AIDS carriers are more
susceptible to influenza A should force the government to hurry up
with the lab," said senior zoologist D Srinivas.

According to a WHO report, age and other groups with increased risk
for complications of seasonal influenza include persons with
immunodeficiency diseases, including HIV infection. The risk of
mortality from seasonal influenza is increased among HIV-infected
individuals compared with the general population.

Studies have shown an increased risk for heart- and lung-related
hospitalisations in people infected with HIV during influenza seasons
as opposed to other times of the year, and a higher risk of influenza-
related death in HIV-infected people.

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