India Begins Free Antiretroviral Drug Program at Seven Centers Nationwide
The Indian government on Thursday began a national HIV/AIDS treatment program by distributing antiretroviral drugs free-of-charge at seven centers nationwide, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. During the first phase of the program, which aims to treat 100,000 people, priority will be given to HIV-positive women who participated in a program in which they received a short-course of antiretrovirals while they were pregnant to prevent HIV transmission to their infants. Although the short-course of drugs can reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission by about 50%, the women eventually would die of AIDS-related diseases without lifelong therapy. The program will give second priority to HIV-positive children under age 15, and third priority will go to people with symptomatic AIDS, according to the Chronicle. The Indian government will spend about $1 a day per patient on the medications, which are generic versions of patented antiretroviral drugs. According to official estimates, less than 1% of India's one billion people are HIV-positive; however, that translates into 4.6 million people, making India second only to South Africa in its number of HIV cases, the Chronicle reports. Many experts believe that as many as 10 million HIV-positive people live in India and that the country could have 25 million HIV cases by 2010 if the epidemic is left unchecked, according to the Chronicle (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/2).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in India is available online at kaisernetwork.org, including a kaisernetwork.org video feature on India and facts about the epidemic in India with links to other sources of information.