India Provides Lower Access to Antiretrovirals Than Other High-Burden Countries, Report Says; Government Taking Steps To Increase Drug Access
India provides fewer HIV-positive people with access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs than some other countries with high HIV prevalence, but the government is stepping up efforts to increase access to the drugs, VOA News reports. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNAIDS, less than 15% of HIV-positive people in India have access to antiretrovirals. About 55,000 HIV-positive people in India receive antiretroviral access at government health clinics and another 15,000 receive antiretroviral access at private clinics, the report found. In addition, the report found that about 3% of pregnant women who are HIV-positive receive access to antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission. According to VOA News, South Africa provides access to antiretrovirals to 32% of HIV-positive people who need them, Kenya provides antiretroviral access to 44% of people who need it and Nigeria provides access to 26% of people who need it. Sujata Rao, head of India's National AIDS Control Organization, said the government must identify people who need treatment access before expanding coverage. Rao added that the country's biggest challenge is increasing access to HIV testing, adding that 22 million people should be tested annually. "Unless we expand the pool of the tested number, we will not be able to get the number of people, the patients or the mothers to whom we need to reach out," Rao said. Indian authorities said that prevention is the main component of the country's plan to curb the spread of HIV and that efforts are being made to increase education and awareness programs, as well as condom distribution programs, according to VOA News. In related news, Indian officials have said recently that concerns have surfaced about the spread of HIV among injection drug users in the country. Although it was previously believed that most HIV cases among IDUs were found in the northeast part of the country, Rao said that cases have appeared among IDUs in other parts of India, including New Delhi, Punjab and Mumbai (Pasricha, VOA News, 4/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.