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World AIDS Day: Experts call for streamlined approach to HIV care

India is third among countries with the most number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world. Amongst the adult population in the country, the HIV prevalence is roughly 0.22 per cent.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: December 1, 2021 3:26:08 pm
On World AIDS Day (December 1) -- the theme of which is 'end inequalities, end AIDS', experts have highlighted the gaps in HIV testing and called for support to return to testing, through scalable solutions. (Representational)

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted healthcare for persons living with HIV, including access to routine services, challenging gains made in HIV testing and care.

Of India’s 23.5 lakh people living with HIV, only 17.8 lakh know their status. 13.8 lakh are on antiretroviral treatment, of which 84 per cent are virally suppressed. HIV-1 viral load testing – critical to monitoring HIV viral suppression – fell by around 41 per cent in 2020 alone, owing to the pandemic.

On World AIDS Day (December 1) — the theme of which is ‘end inequalities, end AIDS’, experts have highlighted the gaps in HIV testing and called for support to return to testing, through scalable solutions. India is third among countries with the most number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world. Amongst the adult population in the country, the HIV prevalence is roughly 0.22 per cent, though this rate is far higher amongst specific at-risk populations.

Dr. Sunita Upadhyaya, associate director for programs, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement said: “A streamlined approach to HIV care is a must to bridge the gap in testing, with only 65 per cent of India’s annual target of 13.8 lakh (1.38 million) viral load tests conducted this year.”

“Addressing this, the government has a future-forward vision to transform the national approach to HIV care, with significant plans to take charge of treatment centres, viral load testing and optimise lab functioning pan-India. Facilitating a smooth transition for states, the CDC has also extended support, such as in viral load sample transportation, across Manipur, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.”

Dr Upadhyaya further added: “Testing is also critical to enable patient centricity, empowering those in far-flung regions with access to much-needed diagnostic solutions. Over the last few months, public sector labs spread across the country have made progress by increasing state linkages to testing, which is a welcome step.”

“With a special focus on reaching people left behind, WHO is calling global leaders and citizens to rally to confront the inequalities that drive AIDS. The aim is to reach people who are currently not receiving essential HIV services. Ahead of World AIDS Day, the latest HIV drug resistance report of WHO has urged countries to monitor resistance.”

Atanu Mitra, General Manager for Abbott’s Molecular Diagnostics business in India said, “We are committed to helping address the HIV burden in the country and we are working with the National AIDS Control Organization to support the country’s end-to-end testing needs. By leveraging world-class technology and our scientific expertise, we can collectively advance quality diagnostics for viral load testing so that people with or without HIV can get the care they need to live their best lives.”

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