Bharatpur, Nepal (February 4, 2013) – To many outside Nepal, the first thoughts associated with that country include the Himalayas, Mount Everest, or the Dalai Lama, but for many living there a primary thought is the HIV/AIDS epidemic that is impacting tens of thousands of people in the highly populous country. Enter AHF Nepal: a collaborative effort by leading global nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the Nepali Ministry of Health and Population, and the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control. This local branch of the largest global AIDS organization operates four clinics throughout the country, including one in the capital and largest city, Kathmandu, and an ART (antiretroviral treatment) Centre in the Bharatpur Hospital, which serves the country’s fifth largest city nestled in the Chitwan Valley in the central-southern part of the country.
AHF Nepal provided several much-needed services to the region in 2012 through multifaceted community-based actions, and the provision by AHF of new testing technology to the Bharatpur ART Centre made ensuring treatment to all who need it more feasible. This important piece of equipment, gifted to the Centre in August 2012, was a new CD-4 level testing machine. CD-4 is a protein complex that coats T white cells in the human immune system, and a normal CD-4 count (which signifies the number of white cells registering this important protein complex) is 500-1200. A CD-4 testing machine determines a person’s CD-4 count, which gives health professionals an idea of how severely an HIV infection is impacting their body and can help doctors plan a course of treatment, as well as monitor progress in those receiving antiretroviral treatment. When Bharatpur Hospital’s existing CD-4 machine was out of service last year, clients were forced to travel to neighboring districts to access testing of their CD-4 levels, and this reduced access to testing ultimately risked affecting treatment plans, which reduces the effectiveness of the antiretroviral treatment. To the joy of healthcare providers, volunteers, and most of all patients, AHF provided the hospital with a brand new CD-4 machine last fall.
“Since AHF provided the CD-4 machine, the clients are provided with testing services at Bharatpur Hospital, making the diagnostic CD-4 testing service more accessible to clients living with HIV, and their socio-economic burden is also reduced,” said Divya Raj Joshi, AHF Nepal’s Program Support Coordinator.
In addition to routinely monitoring the health of clients living with HIV with technology like the CD-4 machine, AHF Nepal hosts a multitude of testing events throughout the country on a regular basis, as well as free condom distribution. The HIV testing actions are fundamental in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in Nepal because, according to July 2012 statistics from Nepal’s National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC), only 20,583 people in the country were registered as HIV-positive, which is less than one half of the 50,200 people in the country estimated to be living with the virus. As a result of so few people being aware of their HIV status, treatment levels are also markedly low, with only 16% of those living with HIV receiving antiretroviral treatment. As of December 2012, AHF Nepal was helping the government to serve 5,819 clients living with HIV, 2,861 of which were receiving antiretroviral treatment.
Recognizing that HIV/AIDS stigma is a major impediment in the treatment of the disease, AHF Nepal also hosted five Stigma and Discrimination Training seminars throughout the country in 2012. The two-day training events were focused on educating those who directly deliver HIV/AIDS services in hospitals, primary health centers, health and sub-health posts, as well as community members at large and support group members, “with an objective to reduce the level of stigma and discrimination attached to HIV/AIDS within the clinics as well as in the community,” Raj Joshi said. In 2012, one such event was held in Kathmandu, two were hosted in Bharatpur, one was conducted in Butwal — an education center for the country about 240 km west of Ksathmandu, and home to a third AHF Nepal clinic — and one was held in Tikapur, a municipality in western Nepal.
To learn more about AHF Nepal and the Foundation’s work in 27 other countries around the globe, visit the Global Programs section of www.aidshealth.org.