NEW DELHI: India has 21.17 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS, the third largest population in the world after South Africa and Nigeria. Out of these, Andhra Pradesh accounts for 3,94,661 of the people living with the deadly virus. Maharashtra was second with 3,01,453 while Tamil Nadu had 1,42,982 people living with HIV/AIDS. Kerala has one of the lowest number of people living with HIV 23,376.
According to senior officials in the Health Ministry, though 21.17 lakh people are estimated to be living with HIV, Anti-retroviral Therapy has been begun only in 9.25 lakh of the cases. Under the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) phase-IV, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) provides universal access to comprehensive, equitable, stigma-free, quality care, support and treatment services to all people living with HIV. At present there are 524 ART centres and 1,094 Link ART Centres in the country providing free ART treatment. The Ministry of Health launched the third line Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) programme for HIV/AIDS patients last month.
ART is a line of drugs that treats HIV. Though the drugs do not kill the virus or cure the disease, when taken in combination they can prevent the growth of the virus. When the virus is slowed down, the disease slows down too. Third line ART programme is given when a population has matured to first and second line ART treatment, in the absence of which patients develop opportunistic infections and eventually die.
The country launched the first line ART programme in April 2004 at 8 centres in three high-prevalence states. The programme was eventually scaled up to 519 ART centers and 1094 Link ART centres in all states and Union Territories. The first line ART refers to the first line of anti-retroviral drugs on which a new patient is initiated. These patients are monitored clinically during monthly visits to the ART centres and also with regular check-ups every month.