India Nearly Doubles Treatment Centers Offering HIV/AIDS Drugs at No Cost, Official Says
India has nearly doubled the number of government health facilities offering antiretroviral drugs at no cost to HIV-positive people as part of a campaign to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment, Sujatha Rao, head of India's National AIDS Control Organization, said Friday, the AP/Boston Herald reports (George, AP/Boston Herald, 9/29). According to the "2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic" released in May by UNAIDS, India has the highest number of HIV-positive people in the world, with 5.7 million people living with the virus. Despite the high number of HIV-positive people in India, the country's HIV prevalence is less than 1% because of its large population (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/15). According to Rao, NACO has increased the number of health centers that provide no-cost antiretrovirals from 54 to 91 this year and is scheduled to open nine more by the end of this month. All centers have physicians, laboratory technicians and counselors on staff and are located in states with high HIV incidence -- including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Tamil Nadu. "Our first priority now will be to launch a massive publicity campaign to let people know that free antiretroviral drugs ... are available at these centers and that they should reach out for free treatment," Rao said. The campaign will include newspaper, radio and television advertisements, and posters detailing treatment centers that will be placed in health centers across the country, the AP/Herald reports. "We also have drugs available for 10,000 children and have begun a state-by-state search to identify children suffering from HIV/AIDS," Rao said (AP/Boston Herald, 9/29). According to a NACO statement, 85,000 HIV-positive people are expected to use the centers over the next six months (Reuters India, 9/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.