Designated medical centres in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata will begin dispensing free second–line antiretroviral therapy to eligible HIV–positive people from September 2008. Only 110 HIV–positive people are currently on second–line ART in India
The National AIDS Control Board (NACB) has decided to roll out second–line ART (antiretroviral therapy) drugs free to HIV patients in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata, from September 2008.
Hospitals providing the treatment include Maulana Azad Medical College (Delhi), B J Medical College (Ahmedabad), Gandhi Hospital (Hyderabad) and the School of Tropical Medicine (Kolkata).
From December, ART, the most effective treatment so far for HIV–affected persons, will be rolled out in four more states – Manipur, Karnataka, Chandigarh and Uttar Pradesh. Experts from the ART centres are being taken by the WHO to Thailand to study operational issues relating to second–line therapy.
Second–line ART therapy started in India in January 2008. Mumbai’s J J Hospital and Chennai's Tambaram ART centre are the two centres delivering the treatment to 110 eligible patients with low CD4 counts and high viral load. While 79 HIV patients are on the drugs, the rest are being counselled; three rounds of counselling are mandatory to ensure the patient understands the treatment and what it entails.
The National AIDS Control Organisation has a target of putting 3,000 first–line ART–resistant HIV patients on second–line treatment by the end of 2008. Around 3% of patients on first–line ARV have become resistant to it and require second–line treatment.
India is believed to have about 2.5 million people affected with HIV/AIDS and among them only 100,000 are currently receiving first–line ART. “Many are in urgent need of second–line treatment due to the failure of their first–line treatments. There are a million people in India who need, or will soon need, basic first–line antiretroviral treatment,” Dr Mahesh Ganesan, advocacy coordinator for the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF)/India Cares told the Press Trust of India in December 2007 when the government announced the second–line ARV programme.