In a first, the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society has begun a multi-month dispensation of medication for HIV positive persons who are ‘stable’ and ‘regularly taking treatment’. Currently, in Maharashtra 14,658 patients have been given anti-HIV drugs for three months under the new Multi-Month Dispensation of Drug initiative, introduced a few months ago.
The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend early initiation of HIV positive patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Going a step further, the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society has initiated steps to dispense drugs for three months at a time to HIV positive persons.
Tukaram Mundhe, project director of Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), told The Indian Express that ‘stable’ patients are those who have fulfilled various criteria, like being on antiretroviral therapy for at least one year, have not had any major opportunistic infection, and have good adherence to treatment.
So far, there are a total of 2.12 lakh people living with HIV who are in active care and availing medicine to treat the disease from across ART centres in the state. According to authorities at MSACS, of them a total of 2,00,761 patients with HIV are on first line regimen of drugs, while 11,253 patients require second line regimen of drugs.
“We have a buffer stock of drugs for 10 to 11 months and hence started the programme in Maharashtra,” officials said, They added that currently 14,658 patients are availing drugs for three months under the new Multi-Month Dispensation of Drug initiative. According to MSACS officials, the Centre has set a target of 90-90-90 by 2020 by ending AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) as a public health threat by 2030.
According to UNAIDS, 90-90-90 target calls on countries to reach the goals of: 90 per cent of people living with HIV diagnosed by 2020, 90 per cent of diagnosed people on anti-retroviral treatment by 2020, and 90 per cent of people in treatment with fully suppressed viral load by 2020.
In order to achieve the 90-90-90 target, the Centre has already rolled out the ‘Test and Treat’ policy. According to this policy, it was decided to ‘treat all’ persons living with HIV, regardless of their CD4 cell count — a test that measures the strength of one’s immunity system. To improve the quality of services and make them more client-centric, various initiatives are also being initiated under the ‘differentiated care’ approach.
Officials explained that the basic objective of this revision is to reduce the time taken by a patient to travel from his/her place to the ART centre. This will also reduce the waiting time of patients and lead to efficient management at ART centres. “We also hope it increases the retention of persons living with HIV under the programme,” officials at MSACS said, adding that it also includes enhancing adherence to treatment and improving the overall quality of ART services.