Government to provide 3,000 AIDS patients free second-line drugs

February 27th, 2009 - 10:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) India plans to target 3,000 HIV positive and AIDS patients who need second line treatment as they have developed resistance to the first set of medicines, an official said Friday.
“At the moment, we have provided treatment to 46 patients who needed second line treatment. About 3,000 people living with HIV and AIDS require the second line treatment. It will take a while before we roll it out,” said K.Sujatha Rao, the head of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the apex government body to monitor and curb HIV/AIDS in India.

She was speaking at the launch of the World Bank report “HIV and AIDS in South Asia: An Economic Development Risk.”

At the moment, the NACO is providing the treatment only from two centres in Mumbai and Chennai, but plans to open eight more centres in the country.

“About 46 patients have been provided the second line treatment in the country. We are accessing its success before we expand it to other states,” she said.

The second line treatment is being provided at Mumbai’s J.J. Hospital and Chennai’s Tambaram ART centre.

According to estimates revised in 2007, India has an estimated 2.5 million people living with HIV. Around 200,000 people are taking the first line treatment in the country free of cost.

Rao, however, said the cost of providing the patient with the second-line treatment is phenomenal.

“I fear that it (in providing money for the second line treatment) would eat into my prevention programmes,” she told reporters.

The second line treatment costs NACO Rs.40-50,000 per year per patient. The NACO budget this year is Rs. 11 billion, of which 30 percent is for the treatment, she said.

Rao agreed with the World Bank report that highlights the fact that HIV and AIDS could pose a serious economic and social development risk to countries in South Asia, including India, unless prevention programs, targeting the vulnerable groups at high risk of infection are not scaled up.

The report said even if the overall prevalence rate is low (up to 0.5 percent), there is high and rising HIV prevalence among vulnerable groups at high risk for HIV infection, including sex workers and their clients, and injecting drug users (IDUs) and their partners.

Rao said they are increasing their coverage for IDUs and for men having sex with men


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