Early infant diagnosis and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV- exposed infants

Nilesh Chandrakant Gawde


Recent scientific evidence suggests that early initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) among infants exposed perinatally to HIV has beneficial effects on their health and survival, and may even induce remission. This has led to the roll-out of early infant diagnosis (EID) of HIV and early treatment. Also, there is talk of using ART as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent mother-to-child transmission. EID involves carrying out diagnostic tests before initiating ART. In India, current programme design of centralised diagnosis has been resulting in poor access to diagnosis and treatment. To save the lives of HIV-infected infants, it is important to prevent delay. Another issue to be kept in mind is that the results of HIV tests may turn negative after the initiation of ART. This could be due to viral remission induced by ART or falsepositive initial results. Differentiating between the two is difficult. To deal with such cases, we need to develop a clinical algorithm and tools for capacity-building in counselling. The use of ART as PEP is expected to encounter further challenges. Between ART as PEP and EID, the later has advantages from an ethical perspective. There is a need to address the ethical issues within the EID programme by strengthening the current mechanisms for protecting the rights of HIV-exposed infants.

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