The Centre’s new test and treat policy for HIV will now have the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) focusing on community-based tests to detect “hidden” cases. There are 10.50 lakh people with HIV on anti-retroviral treatment (ART). With the revision in the guidelines, NACO is likely to detect another three lakh cases.
NACO deputy director general R S Gupta told The Indian Express that the health ministry has intensified efforts to find all those believed to be infected with HIV. “As per the revised guidelines, it has been decided to treat all persons living with HIV regardless of their CD 4 count ( test used to measure strength of one’s immune system),’’ said Gupta.
“CD 4 counts are most often used to evaluate the immune system of a person with HIV and a normal count ranges between 500- 1,200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood.’’ Earlier people with very low CD 4 count — less than 500 — were put on ART.
Union Health Minister J P Nadda said that out of 21 lakh estimated to be living with HIV, the government knows only 14 lakh. “We have been able to avert 1.5 lakh deaths due to ART and we will be able to avert 4.5 lakh more deaths by expanding provision of ART,’’ he said in a statement. “We are now aiming to reach out to people in the community and test them with proper counseling and consent.”
Gupta said there are 1,600 ART and link ART sites, where treatment is provided. He added that 100 more will be set up.