Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announces major steps for improved AIDS treatment to enhance longevity and productivity of patients
The Central government launched the fourth phase of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP-IV) on Wednesday. Under this phase, the government, for the first time in its 20-year battle against HIV/AIDS, will meet a major chunk of the expenditure from its own pocket. Of the total expenditure under NACP-IV—Rs 14,295 crore—the government will contribute Rs 11,394 crore.
Since 1992, when the first phase of NACP was launched, India has been relying on donors for its AIDS control programme. During the first phase of the programme (1992 to 1999), the government's contribution was 45 per cent of the total Rs 657 crore. It decreased to nine per cent of the total expenditure of Rs 2,064 crore during NACP-II (1999-2006).
During the third phase of NACP (2007 to 2012), when the total expenditure was Rs 11,585 crore, the government's contribution was a meager 25 per cent of the total amount. Activists have been pointing out that relying on donors for AIDS prevention is not feasible in the long run. The government seems to have veered around to the same point of view this time.
While launching NACP IV, Union health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, patted his back for the decision, terming it tough at a time when the economy is in recession.
NACP-IV aims to accelerate the process of epidemic reversal and further strengthen the epidemic response in India through a cautious and well-defined integration process over the five-year period, 2012- 2017.
On the occasion, the health minister announced two major steps aimed at boosting AIDS treatment efforts in the country. First, he announced the eligibility for receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been revised from CD4 level 350 to 500. This step will ensure that HIV positive persons are initiated into treatment at an early stage; while enhancing their longevity and productivity, it will contribute to preventing new infections as well.
His second announcement was to introduce third line ART treatment for all those who fail to respond to second line ART under the programme.
Some of the key priorities of NACP IV are: preventing new infections, prevention of parent-to-child transmission, and creating awareness among general population. Some of the new initiatives under NACP IV include scale-up of opoid substitution therapy for injecting drug users (IDUs), female condom programme, multi drug regimen for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PPTCT) in keeping with international protocols and establishment of metro blood banks and plasma fractionation centre.
Secretary of department of AIDS control under the Union health ministry, Lov Verma, said that the third line of treatment will hopefully be rolled up by April 1 and he termed acceptance of guidelines of WHO as a major achievement.
When asked about the Supreme court’s decision on Section 377 of IPC, which makes gay sex illegal, and its impact on NACP, Verma said that the home ministry thas to take a call on what constitutes a crime under Section 377 of IPC. He added that the HIV/AIDS Bill tabled in Rajya Sabha is supposed to protect people living with HIV/AIDS as well as those working with them and that all categories of affected people, including men who have sex with men (MSM), will be covered by the Bill.
Secretary, department of pharmaceuticals with the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers, Aradhana Johri, emphasised an additional feature of NACP IV. It incorporates larger community participation and its financial portfolio is larger than the plan allocation. NACP IV has secured the future of people living with HIV/AIDS for next five years at least as there will be no shortage of funds, she added. She was earlier secretary of AIDS department.
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