After years of advocacy by civil society, including AHF, India has finally adopted policies to address HIV/AIDS discrimination and provide antiretroviral treatment (ART) to all HIV positive people.
The changes come after the Parliament passed the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act 2017 and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India issued a directive instructing implementing agencies to start the rollout of the Test & Treat policy, which mandates access to ART for all people living with HIV regardless of CD4 count. The adoption of Test & Treat will bring India in line with the World Health Organization’s latest ART guidelines.
“AHF India lauds the government’s decision to launch Test and Treat policy and community-based screening. We are hopeful that many more lives can be saved as the HIV/AIDS Act 2017 has brought in legal accountability, thereby safeguarding the rights of people affected by HIV,” AHF India Country Program Director Dr. V. Sam Prasad said. “This will ensure a drastic reduction in the transmission of HIV infections, provided the testing and treatment services are offered at the doorstep of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities.”
The HIV/AIDS Act, which is separate, but related to the Test & Treat directive, contains the following key provisions:
- Prohibits discrimination, the publishing of information or promoting hatred against anyone affected by HIV/AIDS
- Provides access to prevention, testing, treatment and counseling services, including ART and the treatment of opportunistic infections
- Adds women- and children-specific welfare programs
- Provides the groundwork for age-appropriate and gender-sensitive HIV/AIDS education programs
- Appoints an ombudsman in every state to oversee any complaints or allegations regarding violations of the Act
Formerly, patients diagnosed with HIV in India could only receive treatment after their CD4 count dropped below 500. Research shows that patients who start treatment early lead healthier lives and have a very low chance of transmitting the virus to others if they remain adherent to it.
AHF has been working in India since 2004 and currently provides care and treatment to 1,604 patients.