This year marks the 30th year of India’s fight against AIDS, and for the first time, the world has obtained evidence backing antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment to those testing positive for HIV, regardless of CD4. WHO has accordingly revised its guidelines.
The official 8th national conference of AIDS Society of India (ASICON 2015) will open in Mumbai this week. It will be held from October 30 to November 1, 2015. HIV clinicians from several medical faculties will deliberate on how to put the evidence into policy and action.
Ishwar Gilada, president of AIDS Society of India (ASI) said, “India has come a long way in its fight against AIDS. The public HIV programme is providing life-saving ART to over 800,000 people living with HIV. However, in light of new strong evidence to ‘treat all’ regardless of CD4 count, India has to take evidence into account and further fortify its programmatic approaches. ‘Test and Treat’ strategy, Treatment as Prevention (TasP) and Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) for all, Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) – also for the victims of sexual assaults, are some of the evidence-backed approaches that should not be delayed so as to maximise public health outcomes.”
Raman Gangakhedkar, director-in-charge of National AIDS Research Institute, an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) institute and co-chair of ASICON 2015 said, “The latest WHO HIV guideline makes two key recommendations that were developed during the revision process in 2015. First, ART should be initiated in case of every one living with HIV at any CD4 cell count. Secondly, the use of daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is recommended as a prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV infection as part of combination prevention approaches.”
Though US FDA had approved use of PrEP for HIV prevention in high risk groups in July 2012, India is at the very initial stage with few demonstration projects moving ahead in the country.
In India, estimated ART coverage among people living with HIV (2.1 million) was 36% in 2013. If India takes evidence into account and begins to provide ART to the remaining 64% (almost half of them have never come in contact with government programmes), regardless of CD4, then public health outcomes are likely to be enormous including, and not limited to, quality of life and care, and reducing the rate of new infections as well.
ASICON 2015 provides a platform to review, deliberate and develop strategies to enhance national capacity to offer quality HIV care. International experts and 60 national experts among HIV/AIDS sector are part of the conference faculty.
There will be 25 sessions, plenaries, debates, panel discussions. Secretary of Health Research, government of India, and ICMR director general Soumya Swaminathan will deliver ‘Dr Suniti Solomon Oration’ on ‘Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis’.