December 5, 2012
The government of Nepal recently began a national campaign to prevent persons with HIV infection from contracting TB by distributing isoniazid, an anti-tuberculosis drug, to HIV-infected persons. The program began at the Western Regional Hospital, in Pokhara. Praveen Mishra, the Ministry of Health secretary, stated that the government initiated the campaign to fight TB infection among HIV-positive persons because they are very vulnerable to TB, and there has been an increase in such persons succumbing to TB. Mishra also explained that the campaign was started simultaneously at other main hospitals in the country, including Bir and Teku Hospitals in the capital and Seti Zonal Hospital.
Dr. Krishna Kumar Rai, Director of the National Center for AIDS and STD Control, emphasized that the drug is very effective in preventing TB in HIV patients and that it was prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as not only effective, but affordable. He warned that the drug was only for HIV-infected person who have not developed TB, and not for those who already have TB disease. Dr. Rai explained that the patients must take 300 mg. of isoniazid every day for six months.
Rajendra Panta, director of the National TB Center, stated that TB is one of the leading causes of death among HIV-infected persons in Nepal, with a reported 5,000 to 7,000 dying annually from TB. According to Panta, in the first phase of the campaign, only patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) will receive isoniazid, and 500 such patients in the western region will be administered the drug in this phase. He added that pregnant women with HIV will receive isoniazid in the second phase of the campaign. He noted that there are more than 51,000 HIV positive persons in Nepal, and only 8,000 of them are on ART. ART costs more than 200,000 Nepalese rupees (approximately US $2,290) per patient, while isoniazid costs less, at 3,000 rupees (approximately US $34.35) for six months.