Monday, 1 July 2013

An old friend

I met an old friend recently.

He looked quite different from when we first met many years ago when I was studying in university.  I still remember the first few times I first met him in the computer lab at the School of Public Health in 1995.

We have kept in touch since then, and I am pretty sure that I last saw him about 5 or 6 years ago, but this time he has really changed.

But hey, like any old real friend any strangeness you get when you see that he or she is different since our list meeting usually evaporates when you look beneath the surface.   And sure enough, beneath it all, my friend was still the same.  Once we got going, it was like old times.

My friend is not a flesh-and-blood-and-spirit kind of  guy - but an amazing piece of software.

Step forward 'EpiInfo'....


Early in the computer revolution.  In days when words like DOS were used and boot-up etc., the Centres for Disease Control in the US developed an amazing piece of software to help epidemiologists in the field quickly design surveys and do rapid data analysis to help understand disease spread and control.

From its humble start in 1985 as a set of floppy discs, the latest version has come a very long way.  Over a million downloads of this free programme have included at least 3 by my good-self.  The latest version - Epi Info 7 can be downloaded here.  It's a real mouth-watering treat and offers mapping capabilities.  Since we are now in an age of Google maps we can think of actually linking our data to real spatial data for our teams to work with. 

We at Jeevan Sahara Kendra have just done a census-survey of all our HIV Positive Friends who are getting active care through our home-based care teams - as well as a number of Positive Friends who are stable and not being followed up intensively by our teams.  233 surveys successfully completed, and over 60 possible questions to analyse.  In previous years we had set up an excel sheet to help us do this... but now I have Epi Info to the rescue!

Its lovely to have the ability to take any variable - and check how it relates to others... Want to find out how many women have reported headaches in the last month?  Epi Info can do it.  Do the women report more headaches than men?  Epi Info can do it - and tell you whether any difference seen is statistically significant or not.  And so on and so forth.

Its been so long since I have done this - I feel like a boy in a sweet shop.

But there is a serious side to all of this.  One of the agendas that we have at Jeevan Sahara Kendra is to become partners with the government in providing free Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) for people with HIV.  Currently, since the government is giving this free - and its our tax-payer money that is supporting this - we steer all our Positive Friends to the govt. ART centre in town.

But there are over 3000 registered there - and 2 doctors.  So the patients do not get the kind of care that we would like to give.  We would like to take on about 200 - 500 of these patients and provide them with care here at JSK.   We have requested politely, but no response so far.

So we are hoping that this set of data will show that our HBC Positive Friends are showing high levels of adherence to the ART - and therefore we should be included as players and partners in the government health care system.

We are already partners at one level with the government - in the area of doing HIV counselling and testing.  The Maharasthra State AIDS Control Society has trained our staff and provide us with the testing kits.  We conduct the pre-test counselling, take the blood, conduct the test, give the post-test counselling, and report to the government.  We cover the staff costs and overheads.

For our ART programme - all we want is the meds - and the recognition.  We are willing to fund our staff salaries and other overheads - but we want to be able to give govt. meds to people with HIV who need them - and be able to transfer them to another government centre if they need to leave Thane and move to a different location.

So here is where my old friend Epi Info comes in - I am hoping that with his help I will be able to show something meaty from our survey!

Here's hoping!  Here's praying!

No comments:

Post a Comment