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Indian Express
09 January 2011
By Pritha Chatterjee
New Delhi, India

City Anchor preparation in Full Swing; 20 of the 45 Couples who Conceived at the Centre Have Confirmed Their Presence
The AIIMS Hospital.The AIIMS Hospital.
THE country’s first government-run IVF facility at AIIMS will be celebrating its third birthday on February 5 in a unique way. The doctors of this heavily sanitised Assisted Reproductive Technology centre, on the third floor of the hospital’s OPD building, are hard at work trying to trace all the babies conceived at the institute. Reason: they want the children to join in for the anniversary celebration.

"We are trying to contact the parents of infants who have been conceived here. It’s a first for any IVF centre in the country, and also for us," says Dr Neeta Singh, assistant professor at the centre. In between her outpatient and surgical duties since morning, the doctor has been meticulously designing a brochure for the event.

"For those of us who have seen the centre take off and thrive, such happy moments are worth every minute of extra work," she says, buried in newspaper cuttings on various milestones achieved by the facility.

While 20 of the 45 couples who conceived at the institute’s IVF centre have confirmed their presence at the event so far, doctors said efforts are on to trace and convince more parents to make the trip. Doctors are also under taking extra effort to contact the first child who was conceived at the centre, about a year after its inauguration -a baby boy born to a couple from Manipur. "They had been married for about five years, and had come to us after trying at a number of private facilities. They conceived relatively soon here, and were truly overwhelmed," recalls another doctor from the centre. "The couple was relatively shy even then. So, I don’t know how successful we will be in convincing them to come."

According to Dr Singh, many couples are reluctant to attend a public forum due to the stigma associated with IVF. "Unfortunately, the concept of assisted re production is still ostracised. People do not want to admit they had to undergo in-vitro fertilisation," she says. Also, since there are couples from as far as the northeast and south India, they are reluctant to travel with infants. The oldest child is only about two years old.

The facility, started in May 2007, has brought down the cost of assisted reproduction to almost one-third of the cost at private hospitals. The centre had a rocky start, after a lack of space near the hospital’s gynaecology department led to the first machine purchased at Rs 13 lakh being locked away for three years.

Now, Vineet Chawdhry, deputy director (administration) welcomes the idea of such a celebration. "There is no doubt that doctors are wedded to the centre. They have been planning the event all by themselves, and are laboriously contacting all parents who conceived their babies here," he says.

Doctors say the event will help generate awareness about the facility. "Couples are still wary of coming to a government hospital for IVF. A majority of our patients have spent money at other centres elsewhere before they come to us. IVF is a big business and lots of couples are misguided for money," says Dr Singh, her brochure design finally complete.

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