/ 14 September 2005

Hurricane havoc

Estimated worldwide HIV infections: 64 322 790 at 12.05pm on September 14 2005

Federal officials, drug companies and Aids organisations are working to provide care to the nearly 8 000 HIV-positive people displaced two weeks ago by Hurricane Katrina.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, health providers in Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other states are reporting that displaced HIV/Aids patients are arriving at their clinics seeking new prescriptions and medical care. In response to the need, several Aids service organisations have partnered with clinics in other cities to provide temporary housing and medication for HIV-positive patients.

According to Nicholos Bellos, president of the Dallas-based Southwestern Infectious Disease Associates, HIV/Aids patients have complex medical histories that are often well-documented at their clinics. ‘Not many of these people had a chance to go by and pick up their medical records on the way out of town,” he said.

In addition, HIV-positive patients can develop drug resistance if they miss doses of their medication, making the virus more difficult to treat. Federal officials have said they are working to streamline care to HIV-positive patients after the hurricane destroyed the Biloxi and New Orleans service centres of the Health Resources and Services Administration agency that provides funding for people living with HIV — and left the centres in Hattiesburg, Mississippi , and Mobile, Alabama, flooded and without power. Several drug companies also have offered to provide medication to patients at no cost.

Source: AP/Miami Herald