Following World Health Organisations’ recommendations, the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) has launched lifelong Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) to prevent the transmission of HIV from an infected mother to her unborn child.
Under the programme, triple drugs will be administered to the HIV-infected woman from the early stages of pregnancy and will have to be taken lifelong.
According to experts, Anti-retroviral Therapy will bring down the possibility of transmission of HIV from mother to child to 1 per cent. Besides, the mother will also be able to breastfeed the child.
The triple drug consists of tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz.
Prior to this programme, only a single drug (ARV prophylaxis with single dose of nevirapine) used to be given to the HIV-infected mother at the time of delivery.
This dosage would reduce the risk of transmission by 35 per cent to 15 per cent. Moreover, breastfeeding was discouraged.
Dr Velayudhan, joint director (care and support), Kerala State AIDS Control Society, said apart from giving prominence to Anti-retroviral Therapy in the programme launched by the Naco, it also give focus to certain other aspects too.
“Apart from giving lifelong Anti-retroviral Therapy, it also intends to prevent HIV in women, prevention of unintended pregnancies in infected women, prevention of HIV transmission from infected mother to infants and provision of care, treatment and support to mothers living with HIV, their children and families,” he said.
This programme intends to intervene in the community to bring down the incidence of HIV, said Dr Ajith, Additional Professor, Thrissur Medical College.
“A comprehensive counselling is also needed to prevent them from being brandished as HIV patients,” he said.
While most of the developed nations have already adopted this approach, India had been avoiding it
on concerns about the feasibility of Anti-retroviral Therapy.
Even the World Health Organisation had highlighted the need to shift to this programme to the Central Government.
“Compared to the triple-drug system, the single dose drug is comparatively cheap but not too effective. Besides, if the infection progresses to a later stage, the single dose drug proves useless against it. In many parts of the country, antenatal care is very poor,’ he said.
“To be able to get the drug in the initial stages, an HIV-infected woman has to register in the programme. Hence the programme was found to be not feasible. But now the Naco has decided to follow the triple-drug system,” he said.