Indian Government Plans To Provide Access to Second-Line Antiretrovirals After First-Line Drug Treatment Target is Met, Official Says
The Indian government plans to provide HIV-positive people with access to second-line antiretroviral drugs as early as next year, National AIDS Control Organization Director-General Sujatha Rao said on Tuesday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Rao said the second-line drugs, which can cost 12 times as much as some older drugs, will be provided after NACO meets its goal of providing first-line antiretroviral treatment to 100,000 people in the country. According to Rao, the government currently provides about 67,000 people with access to first-line drugs, and between 3,000 and 4,000 new people are added to the program monthly. She added that based on these numbers, NACO could meet the 100,000 treatment target by December 2007. Second-line antiretroviral drugs cost $239 per person monthly, compared with $239 per person annually for first-line medications, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 4/17). "We are committed to provide second-line drugs by next year, maybe, hopefully by January," Rao said (Press Trust of India, 4/17). She added that it has been a "conscious decision to provide first-line treatment to the positive people first, which is affordable and cheaper to provide. The second-line treatment needs more investment and infrastructure." According to Rao, NACO provides access to no-cost, first-line antiretroviral drugs through its 127 treatment sites, which the organization plans to increase to 250 in the next two years (SpiritIndia.com, 4/17). Rao said that 3% to 4% of people who are on an antiretroviral regimen could become resistant to the drugs within four to five years. She said that when the government begins to offer second-line treatment, it will seek funding from international sources. Rao also said a primary concern for NACO is the "unethical practices" by some private physicians of prescribing second-line drugs to HIV-positive people rather than following the national treatment guidelines of initially offering first-line drugs (Press Trust of India, 4/17).
Andhra Pradesh Officials To Propose Legislation Mandating Premarital HIV Tests
Couples in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh could be required to take an HIV test before getting married under legislation recently proposed by state officials, Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy said on Tuesday at a function to launch a public-private program for children living with HIV/AIDS, the Times of India reports. State Health Minister K. Rosaiah announced in the assembly in November 2006 that a bill mandating premarital HIV tests would be adopted. Reddy said the legislation does not violate human rights. "Human rights of innocent young women married off to HIV-positive men who hide their status should be given higher priority," he said. Reddy added, "I do not understand what kind of rights' discourse allows innocent persons" to contract HIV. The government will launch an awareness program at the district level before passing the law, officials said (Times of India, 4/18).