NEPALGUNJ, May 1: Sabir Khan of Kalafant VDC - 7, a father of three daughters, was always desperate for a son. But when he was finally blessed with one two months ago, it brought him sadness rather than joy. Soon after the baby was born the father came to know that babies of HIV-infected parents have high chances of carrying the virus also.
“I did not know that it was risky for HIV-positive parents to have babies. I wanted a son and I was so happy that God finally gave me one,” said Khan.
“But then I felt stunned when the nurses told me my son had a high chance of being HIV-infected,” he added. Khan´s wife Siya gave birth to the baby boy at Bheri Zonal Hospital on February 20.
Since then Khan has been making the rounds of health organizations in Nepalgunj to better understand HIV and ways to combat it. “I am so worried about my boy. I wish somebody would give me tips on how to protect him from the disease I and my wife have.”
There is no technology for immediately detecting the HIV status of a newborn. The HIV detection process in Nepal is lethargic anyway. After a baby turns 18 months old his or her blood sample is sent to Thailand for tests.
Khan and his wife were diagnosed HIV-positive a year ago. Khan had unsafe sex in India when he was working there.
Khan´s case is unfortunately quite common in this region. Men go to India to earn wages for labor and often bring back home the dreaded virus and transmit it to their wives. And because of unawareness about how risky their health status can be for their newborn or what preventive measure should be taken by expecting mothers, the disease gets transmitted to the young.
“If a mother is HIV-positive, there is a 20 to 45 percent chance that the baby will be infected also. It is advisable for HIV-positive women not to go for babies,” said Anil KC, ART (antiretrovital therapy) chief at Bheri Zonal Hospital. “If they need to have a baby, there are certain precautions they should take. However, there is not enough awareness and infected people have been having babies indiscriminately.”
According to KC, if babies born to the HIV-infected are provided with ART services from the beginning, the risk level can be reduced to 2 to 3 percent. Also, the babies should not be breast-fed by the mother and mother and baby should be protected from injuries during the period immediately after birth.
As per the hospital data, 4 babies in 2011, 5 in 2010, 9 in 2009 and 7 in 2008 were born to HIV-infected mothers.