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Why the CD4 Count Reagent drug shortage is bad for HIV positive patients

Written by Nirmalya Dutta |Updated : July 12, 2013 12:55 PM IST

There s a massive shortage of HIV drug CD4 Count Reagent throughout the country which is threatening the livelihood of thousands of HIV positive people in the country. Activists allege that the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has stopped its supply since March! The President of Indian Drug Users Forum (IDUF) Abu Mere said the CD4 count reagent which is essential for treatment of HIV is already out of stock in various states like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and NE states including Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.

Various NGOs in Nagaland protested at the office of Nagaland State AIDS Control Society, Kohima. Reports suggest that Nagaland is facing a shortage of reagent for the last four months and this is risking the lives of those living with HIV in the state. The protesters submitted a memorandum to the Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS) demanding immediate supply of the reagent. There were protests observed at the NACO office in New Delhi on Tuesday. It s believed that the shortage is due to delay in release of funds from the Centre.

What are CD4 T cells?

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CD4 T cells or CD4+ T helper cells (as they re properly known) are white blood cells that are a vital part of the human immune system. They are called helper cells because their main purpose is to send signals to other types of immune cells including the CD8 killer cells which then search and destroy the infection or virus. In HIV patients, the CD4 cells level goes down, making the body vulnerable to a wide range of infections that it would be able to fight normally. (Read: Together we can end HIV/AIDS)

HIV causes a progressive reduction in the number of CD4 cells. The count of CD4 cells also forms an important part of diagnosis for HIV treatment. Normal values are anywhere between 500-1200 cells/mm3. Treatment starts when the level falls under 350 cells/mm3. A person is considered to have AIDS when his or her CD4 count falls under 200 cells/mm3. (Read: Testing for HIV)

Why is the CD4 Count Reagent important?

The CD4 Count Reagent is used to measure the levels of CD4 T cells in HIV positive people and when the CD4 T cell count falls below a certain level (350 cells per mm) patients are required to start taking anti-HIV drugs. Without finding out CD4 levels, it s impossible to start treatment which is extremely dangerous for HIV positive patients.

As we can see, the CD Count Reagent forms one of the vital cogs in the War on AIDS and NACO needs to provide it before the scarcity starts hitting the thousands suffering from the disease.

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