India: HIV+ patient with TB kills himself

The depressed 16-yr-old boy, who was admitted to the Sewri hospital, had told his mother that he had lost all hope of recovering.

Tired of his illness and the constant pain it brought him, a 16-year-old boy who had multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and was also HIV-positive, killed himself at Sewri TB hospital by slitting his wrist with a knife.

The teenager had been admitted to the hospital on January 20 after he was detected with MDR tuberculosis. Early Wednesday morning, a visiting ward boy noticed the patient's left hand was bleeding profusely and alerted the staff and doctors. The patient was rushed to KEM hospital but succumbed the same night.

The boy's mother alleged her son was not counseled adequately. She was there when the incident took place; her son was in the male ward on the fourth floor while she was sleeping in the third floor. The boy was conscious while he was shifted to KEM and could speak. "I asked him why he had tried to kill himself. I reminded him that I told him he would be alright. He said he was tired of his illness and could not tolerate the pain anymore. He said he knew he would not get better and the disease would kill him."

The boy was diagnosed as HIV-positive when he was just three years old. His father had died of AIDS ten years ago, and his mother made aliving working at an anganwadi, taking care of her two sons, the younger one seven.

"My older son was well aware of and reconciled to his HIV-positive status since he was very little, and was on medicines for it. Everything was going well, and he was even studying in an English medium school," said the mother.

But, one-and-a-half years go, he was diagnosed with TB. He was put on the DOT package of tuberculosis medicines provided by the civic body, but the medicines did not suit him.

The heavy doses led to such nausea that he could not force himself to take them anymore, said the mother. Generally, when patients stop their medicines - they have to pick them up regularly from the civic centres—health workers personally visit them and counsel them. However, according to the mother, nobody came to counsel her son.

After that she took him for private treatment, but her son's condition deteriorated so rapidly that he lost half his weight, slipping from 40 kg to 20 kg. "He almost stopped eating, he had a severe breathing problem and sleeplessness," said the mother. But she remembers her son still giving his exams, determined to complete his education, to be able to get a job and support his family.

It was in January that he was detected with MDR TB and admitted to the Sewri TB hospital. "He was so weak he could not walk or even talk properly. The doctors felt he would not be able to tolerate the MDR TB drugs. They put him on intravenous glucose. This led to a complete nervous breakdown for the boy," said the mother.

Dr Shubhangi Parkar, Head of the Psychiatric department, KEM hospital, said: "MDR TB is a chronic disease and we have seen many MDR patients who live in fear that they are going to die. Our team of doctors routinely visits Sewri TB hospital to counsel patients. In fact, there are a few patients who are on anti-depressants. I have to check how we missed this young boy."

She said the drugs for tuberculosis are so strong that many patients become angry, depressed, irritable, and even suicidal.

The latest data from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation says there are 2,310 MDR TB cases in the city and 122 extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) patients.

Source: Mumbai Mirror

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By Lata Mishra

Published: Feb. 8, 2014, 10:27 p.m.

Last updated: Feb. 8, 2014, 11:32 p.m.

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