J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare announced major policy decisions in the fight against HIV-AIDS in the presence of Shri Shripad Yasso Naik, Minister of State (MoS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, at a function on the occasion of World AIDS Day, 2015 organised by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, here today. The Health Minister also released the “India HIV Estimations 2015-Technical Report” and launched Distance Learning Programme on Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST), Integrated HIV TB e-learning module, PPTCT ART Linkage Software (PALS) and HIV Sensitive Social Protection Portal on this occasion.
Speaking on this occasion, Shri Nadda informed that the Government of India has taken major policy decisions towards strengthening the fight against the epidemic. It has been decided that the National AIDS Control Programme will continue as a Central Sector Scheme, he informed. Further, the Minister said, there had been concern in some quarters about the ability of some of the States to contribute their share to the programme-these doubts should now be laid to rest. This decision clearly demonstrates the Government’s commitment towards this cause, Shri Nadda stressed.
Shri Nadda expressed happiness over integration of Prevention from Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) programme with the RCH programme. He said more than a crore women were provided with counseling and testing services and this programme is continuing to scale up to ensure zero transmission from mother to child. “I want every child born in this country to be free of AIDS and have the freedom to realize her dreams”, he said. The above steps are important milestones as we traverse the 90:90:90 strategy adopted by UNAIDS, the Health Minister said. Further, he said that in view of the growing need for treatment services, the Ministry has also decided that the cut-off level for initiation of Anti Retrieval Therapy (ART) will henceforth be a CD4 count of 500. With this decision an additional 1 lakh persons will start getting benefit of treatment, he stated. It has also been decided to offer 3rd line treatment to patients who need it. “NACO has been asked to gear up for these initiatives and we hope to start actual delivery in the coming weeks”, the Minister informed.
The Health Minister stated that success of India’s HIV/AIDS Control Programme is recognized globally and the country has been able to bring consistent decline in HIV prevalence, in the incidences of new infections, and also in the number of AIDS-related deaths. He said inspite of concrete success, there is no scope for complacency. Newer vulnerabilities continue to emerge. So, there is need to expand the scope of our services. Further, since the world has adopted the goal of ending this epidemic by 2030, much greater efforts would be required, he added. The Health Minister urged all development partners (UN Agencies, USAID, WHO, World Bank etc.), civil society to come together and join hands in this fight against HIV, so that epidemic can be ended by 2030.
Shri Nadda also stated that addressing stigma and discrimination towards HIV is of paramount importance, to enable persons infected and affected with HIV to access health services and live a life of dignity. The Health Minister highlighted the need for equal participation, inclusion and collective efforts. He dispelled all takes of shortage of drugs and stated that all procurement issues are under control by NACO. He said that India has extended support to the African countries in their fight against HIV-AID which reflects India’s global commitment.
Shri Shripad Yasso Naik, Minister of State (MoS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that youth can play bigger role to change the mindset of people by creating more awareness and dispelling misconceptions surrounding the diseases. Shri Naik urged people to come together to end this epidemic by 2030.
Shri B P Sharma, Secretary (Health) highlighted the contribution of evidence-based planning, involvement of stakeholders and communities, judicious deployment of resources and focused interventions, in the success India has had to reduce HIV-AIDS infection. He stated that we need to be alert and continue with our effort.
The HIV Estimation-2015 show that India has been successful in achieving the MDG-6 of halting and reversing the HIV epidemic by 2015. The fact that new infections have declined by 66% from 2000 and 2015, and AIDS-related deaths fallen by 54% from 2007 to 2015, is a concrete proof that India has delivered on its global commitment in achieving MDG-6. While India’s success story continues, the current estimates highlight key challenges that will need to be addressed with urgency as the programme moves ahead to achieve NACP IV goals in the short term, the 90-90-90 targets in the intermediate term, and to end the AIDS epidemic in the longer term. The slow-down identified in the rate of decrease of new HIV infections in last few years is a key issue, while scope of improvements in ART and PPTCT coverage exists.
The Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) is one of the components under the harm reduction strategy and is an evidence-based medical treatment for dependence on opioid drugs. It is a highly effective intervention for reducing drug related harms among IDUs particularly prevention of transmission of HIV and other blood borne diseases. OST is provided by trained physicians both in NGO as well as Public health settings. To increase the capacity building of physicians through distance learning an Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) distance learning programme has been developed for building the capacities of service providers engaged in delivery of Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST). This distance learning program is targeted towards the personnel working in OST centres supported by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). It enables the participants to acquaint themselves with the various aspects of OST till such time they get an opportunity to attend the formal classroom trainings. Certificate of completion will be awarded to the participants upon completion of the course. This certificate would enable the participant to start delivery of OST services at their centres. The online training programme is a joint endeavour of National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), New Delhi and NACO.
To train the staff of NACP and RNTCP working at district and sub-district level, an “e-training HIV TB module have been developed by NACO and Central TB Division, MoHFW with support of ILFS India as a “Digital India” initiative. This integrated e-training module includes all updated knowledge regarding HIV TB, which will improve the participants knowledge on Diagnosis, treatment, Preventive measures related to HIV/TB. This innovative methodology of training will be helpful to impart the desired knowledge regarding TB/HIV with the purpose to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of Government of India’s response to TB/HIV. While HIV Sensitive social protection portal will help the officials and counselors at the district level to facilitate and ensure more and more people avail the benefits of these schemes.
HIV positive pregnant and breast feeding women accessing the Prevention of Parent To Child Transmission of HIV (PPTCT)/Early Infant Diagnosis services during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding and early infant diagnosis of infants in any of the ICTC (Integrated Counseling and Testing Center) or ART (Anti-retroviral Therapy) center in the country will be reported in the PPTCT ART Linkages Software (PALS) system. This is a web based system which enables in creating longitudinal cohort details of all HIV positive pregnant and breast feeding women and their newborn babies until their baby is tested for HIV at 18 months of age. This system will be accessed by all Standalone ICTCs (5353) and ART (544) centers in the country. The system will help in documenting improving health outcomes for mothers and their children, facilitating elimination of parent to child transmission of HIV in India.
Also present on this occasion were, Shri N.S.Kang, Additional Secretary, NACO; Mr. Oussama Tawil, Country Coordinator, UNAID India; Mr. Hendrik Jan Bekudam, WHO Representative to India and Mr. Jaco Cilliers, Country Director, UNDP. They all appreciated India’s effort to fight against HIV-AIDS.