Kala azar Elimination is not possible without addressing the emerging issue of kala azar-HIV coinfection. As a disease that affects the most vulnerable and poorest in society, the deep-rooted stigma and the inadequate state of health facilities make this coinfection an urgent public health concern. The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been working on the kala azar-HIV coinfection since 2017 in collaboration with Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI) and Government of Bihar in Patna. The main objectives of the project have been to ensure that all HIV patients with symptoms of kala azar are tested for kala azar and all kala azar patients are screened for HIV, establishing a surveillance system for cases and referrals to the MSF ward in RMRI for free of cost treatment, and psychosocial support for patients after treatment.
As part of its continued advocacy efforts, on 13th April 2018, MSF conducted an orientation on kala azar-HIV for the community care coordinators and Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) counsellors from Bihar State Aids Control Society (BSACS) and representatives from PLHIV groups and transgender communities. The orientation was part of a three day capacity building workshop organized by SACS Bihar and Voluntary State Health Services, Tamil Nadu.
Kavitha Devadas, MSF Communication Advocacy Manager, introduced MSF’s work worldwide and in India, and the history and achievements of MSF’s work in kala azar in Bihar. MSF Project Coordinator Dr. Shahwar Kazmi presented on MSF’s current focus on kala azar-HIV and the model of treatment and care. Highlighting the successful collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kazmi remarked that, “MSF has expanded its Health Promotion activities to all 33 kala azar endemic districts of Bihar which has resulted in 200% increase in the number of kala azar-HIV cases when compared to 2016. This has been possible due to our dedicated MSF health promotion teams who have received wonderful support from MoH staff at different levels.”
Dr. Narendra Kumar Gupta, Joint Director, TI Project, BSACS, Bihar, echoed this sentiment, when he remarked on the important role ART counselors need to play, “the good work must go on. The objective of this orientation is to ensure that there is adequate awareness in the PLHIV community members on the coinfection. Whenever there is a new case, they must be referred to MSF in the RMRI ward in Patna.” He further expressed his hope that MSF will start a dedicated project for proper care in advanced HIV stage.
About the project:
From 2007, MSF has treated over 13,000 kala azar patients with the support of the Government of Bihar. After playing an important role in changing the national policy to a first-line treatment using a single dose of Liposomal Amphotericin B (LAmB), MSF handed over its primary kala azar project to the government in 2015, and began focusing on the treatment of kala azar-HIV in partnership with Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Science and Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative as a technical partner in Bihar. There remains a substantial amount of work to be done for these patients, ranging from ensuring that all kala azar patients are offered HIV testing to supporting a multidisciplinary approach to their care.
MSF has treated 411 kala azar-HIV co-infected cases till date.
For more information & interviews contact:
Advocacy & Communication Manager, MSF India
Phone: +91 9599076318
About Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières
MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare in around 70 countries. MSF offers assistance to people based only on need and irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. MSF has been working in India since 1999, providing free-of-charge essential healthcare in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Manipur, Telengana, and Uttar Pradesh. MSF received the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in 1996 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.