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UNAIDS Report at Odds With NACO’s ‘Success Story’

Times of India
04 June 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India

Questions Claim That 4L HIV–Affected Were Given Treatment
UNAIDS Report at Odds With NACO’s ‘Success Story’
About one lakh HIV infected people were put on treatment in India in the past one year. National AIDS Control Organization’s (NACO) "success story" shows that over four lakh HIV patients were put on life–saving anti retroviral treatment (ART) at the end of April 2011, which is much higher than the target.

NACO says, 3.4 lakh would receive ART by April, 2012. "We have exceeded our target before time," said Dr B B Rewari, NACO’s ART officer incharge. However, a new report published by UNAIDS on Friday – "AIDS at 30: Nations at the Crossroads" – to commemorate 30 years of AIDS contradicts NACO’s claims.

UNAIDS says ART coverage in India ranges between 21% and 40%. "We don’t agree with UNAIDS’ model. India has 2.3 million estimated HIV infected people. UNAIDS’ calculation includes all of them. However, 2.3 million is estimated, and not found. We have detected only 1.4 million HIV people of which 35% require treatment. In India, .9 million with HIV don’t know their status. How can we treat people who don’t know that they are infected?" Dr Rewari asked.

UNAIDS India chief Dr Charles Gilks reacted to NACO’s assertions. He told TOI that by the end of NACP IV, at least one million people should be on ART in India.

"ART coverage isn’t such a big problem in India. The bigger challenge is to identify people infected with HIV," Dr Gilks said. Dr Gilks cited good ART regimens, which can help a HIV patient live up to 25 years or more if s/he has access to treatment. "HIV/AIDS has become a life–long chronic disease," he added.

UNAIDS report says about 6.6 million people were receiving ART in low and middle–income countries like India at the end of 2010 – a nearly 22–fold rise since 2001. About 1.4 million people started life–saving treatment in 2010 – more than ever before. Also, 4.2 lakh children were receiving ART in 2010, a 50% plus increase since 2008 when 2.75 lakh children were on treatment.

A recent HPTN052 trial results found that if a HIV patient adheres to an effective ART regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%. "Access to treatment will transform the AIDS response soon. We must invest in accelerating access ," said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS executive director.

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