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HIV INFECTION PREVENTION IS AVAILABLE, BUT NOT FOR EVERYBODY

Limited amount of medicine causes problems not only for HIV patients, but for medical workers as well. They often have to make decision. Luara Chalauri is a social

worker for a non-governmental organization A Step to the Future. While conducting a blood test on a patient, she pricked herself with a needle. The test was for HIV and Hepatitis C and patient’s condition was critical. Even though pricking with a potentially infected needle is dangerous, the social worker just washed a damaged tissue and didn’t take Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a treatment for preventing HIV and Hepatitis. It is a process of taking antiretroviral medications as soon as possible after exposure to the virus, so that a condition doesn’t result in infection. PEP should begin within 72 hours from the incident and continue for four weeks. In most cases patients of the PEP are health care workers, drug users and rape victims. According to AIDS center, 253 new cases of HIV were recorded for 28 July of 2012, up by 89 cases compared to the 2011 data. "Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Center" is the only organization in Georgia, which offers PEP service. Like any treatment of an HIV infected patient, PEP is free of charge. The project is financed by the international financing institution Global Fund to fight the AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. As PEP treatment needs same medications as HIV positive patients need, making a decision whom to treat is sometimes difficult. The amount of medicines given by Global Fund is limited. Doctors are reluctant to decrease a number of medicines for HIV-positive patients and allocate them for PEP. According to AIDS.org, majority of PEP patients are health care workers. Besides, doctors who get infected with HIV on duty receive a special pension, says Shorena Khakhitashvili, a lawyer for an NGO A Step of Future. Information about any patient or medical center worker who gets infected with HIV is regularly sent to Maia Popkhadze, an epidemiologist at Gudushauri National Medical Center. According to Popkhadze, who has been working in Gudushauri center for the last four years, only one case of infection has been reported in 2012 (different number has been published by AID’s center). "The best way for HIV prevention is treating all patients in the same way. The standards of safety should be protected in any case. We conduct special trainings for health care workers to inform them how to protect themselves," says Popkhadze. Medications that are used for Post Exposure Prophylaxis have side effects, including diarrhea, nausea, headache and tiredness. Many people fail to complete the full course of PEP, because of them. In rare cases more serious side effects, such as liver damage, may occur.