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29 Apr 2017

Early HIV treatment from the government

TT, New Delhi, April 28: Any person who tests positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) will receive free anti-retroviral therapy (ART) from the government under a new test-and-treat policy announced by the Union health ministry today.
The revised guidelines will mean HIV-positive persons across the country will no longer need to wait for their CD4 white blood cells' levels to drop to 500 cells per cubic mm before being eligible for the ART, the ministry said.
"The test-and-treat policy will be for all men, women, adolescents, and children diagnosed as HIV positive. This will improve longevity and improve quality of life of those infected and save them from opportunistic infections," health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said.
The ART medicines do not cure the infection but reduce the body's load of HIV. The therapy needs to be taken lifelong.
The World Health Organisation had in September 2015 recommended the use of ART, citing clinical trials that confirmed that the early use of the therapy keeps people with HIV alive, healthier and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
The National AIDS Control Organisation has estimated that India has about 21 lakh people with HIV in 2015, and about 10 lakh of them are currently receiving ART from 1,600 government clinics.
The government has documented only around 14 lakh of the estimated 21 lakh estimated HIV-positive population. Nadda said the health ministry had adopted a 90:90:90 strategy - one that seeks to identify 90 per cent of HIV-infected persons, place 90 per cent of them on ART and ensure 90 per cent have viral loads under control.
"This is in line with revised WHO guidelines that recommend treatment for all those infected, irrespective of the CD4 (white blood cell) counts," said Leena Menghaney, a campaigner with Medecins Sans Frontieres, the humanitarian medical agency.

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