October 12, 2016 1:45:06 am
The AIDS Society of India (ASI) held the ninth National Conference of ASI from October 7-9 in Mumbai. While welcoming the HIV/AIDS Bill, 2014, that will help in reducing discrimination faced by people living with HIV (PLHIV), Dr Ishwar Gilada, president of AIDS Society of India and ASICON 2016, said that scientific evidence has proven effective strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat and care for HIV, making it theoretically a chronic manageable disease. But a reality check will tell us a grim tale of AIDS prevention and control in India: We are surely not doing all what we can and we should, with full thrust to prevent, test and treat HIV, despite available knowledge and resources at our disposal.”
India has an estimated 21.17 lakh PLHIV, among whom 6.54% are children less than 15 years of age and 40.5% are women. Only 43% of these (91,9,141) are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) despite strong scientific evidence to “test and treat” all without delay. Not providing ART after testing someone positive for HIV is clinical malpractice and counterproductive public health-wise.
There is a large number of PLHIV who are not aware of their HIV status. 1,49,5,400 of 2,11,7,000 PLHIV in India are aware of their status. Even among high risk groups or key populations, HIV testing coverage is still not 100 per cent. HIV testing coverage for female sex workers is 72 per cent, for men who have sex with men it is 70 per cent and for people who use drugs it is 71 per cent.
So, almost one-third of high risk groups are not being reached even today. Diagnosing and reaching out to each PLHIV in the country is not only important but is also a public health imperative if we want to prevent new HIV transmission and provide ART to each one of them. This will also reduce opportunistic infections like TB and have a broad spectrum public health impact too. If we fail to act now then it will be too late and for many PLHIV in reality HIV will not be a “chronic manageable” condition, but rather have public health consequences.
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