The Lede Exclusive: While a thorough investigation into how baby Kamini contracted HIV is underway, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society and the state’s Health Secretary explain what exactly is going on
As two-year-old Kamini* continues to await treatment, The Lede spoke with authorities to find out what exactly is going on and whether Kamini will get justice.
Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Beela Rajesh told The Lede – “A thorough investigation into how Kamini contracted HIV is underway. The child will definitely be treated once her parents bring her to hospital,” she said.
She reiterated Health Minister C Vijayabaskar’s statement that the donor whose blood was transfused to Kamini at Coimbatore GH had been re-tested for HIV and has been found to be negative.
“The packed blood has also been tested and found to be HIV negative,” she said. “So the blood transfusion is not the cause for Kamini contracting HIV. We are looking into what actually happened and how she got the infection,” she added.
Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TNSACS), the state’s nodal program for the National AIDS Control Organisation (NAC0) is also following the case. Contrary to news reports that TNSACS has initiated an enquiry on its own, Project Director K Senthil Raj told The Lede that they have suo motu asked the Dean of the Coimbatore Government Hospital to enquire and put up a report.
“TNSACS is not conducting any separate enquiry,” stated Raj. “Generally whatever the allegation may be, the head of the institution will put up the report. Government will decide further course of action.”
TNSACS’ Project Director Raj also explained the medical history of Kamini.
“Based on the prima facie reports, the blood donated to the baby in the 7th month of 2018 is HIV negative as per the records of 3rd ELISA reader which we use in Coimbatore Medical Government Hospital,” he said. “The donor is also a regular donor who has donated blood several times before and once after the incident also and the blood is always HIV negative,” he added.
Raj says that the HIV testing kits are of the highest sensitivity and completely reliable.
“Third generation ELISA kits are the highest sensitive and the specific kit is supplied to us by NACO,” continued Raj. “Incidentally the same batch of kits has also been tested for quality assurance under the agreement with CMC (Christian Medical College), Vellore as per a NACO MoU and was found satisfying on all quality fronts. Hence I would assure you that the baby didn’t get HIV because of blood transfusion,” he said.
Raj too appealed to the child’s father to bring Kamini to hospital for treatment.
“The child’s father has made allegations. If they cooperate with the enquiry called by the Dean by showing him all the records, hospitalisation and treatment history so far of the baby, we can definitely find out the possible ways the baby could have contracted HIV,” he said.
According to government hospital records, Kamini was a pre-term baby, one of twins. She weighed 700 grams at birth while her twin brother weighed 1,300 grams. Kamini was given two months of intensive care at the Trichy Medical College.
“When she was admitted in the Coimbatore Medical College Paediatrics ward in the 7th month of 2018 for broncho-pneumonia plus septicaemia with haemoglobin less than 6 grams, again the baby was saved in Paediatric ICU in the hospital,” said Raj. “Again now when the baby was admitted critically for pneumonia, she was diagnosed with HIV and put on ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) by the Coimbatore doctors.”
Doctors say that Kamini has Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and repeated chest infections due to the heart anomaly.
“The parents should cooperate for enquiry and show the hospitalisation records to find out how the baby got HIV rather than blaming the institution. I fear these allegations shouldn’t affect an institution and its efficient blood transfusion services which saves 10,000 pregnant mothers and serves 20,000 plus general surgeries and other procedures which the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital does every year,” said Raj.
The current prevalence rate of HIV in TN is 0.27 as per the HIV sentinel surveillance conducted by NACO in 2017. Since 2013-14, the number of new cases of HIV AIDS detected in Tamil Nadu has gone down from 15,987 in 2013-14 to 10,527 in 2017-18.