HHS Secretary Leavitt Visits Indian Facilities That Provide HIV/AIDS Care, TreatmentHHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Monday visited a hospital and HIV/AIDS education and prevention facility in Chennai, India, Bloomberg reports. Leavitt visited the hospital as part of a trip to India that focuses on import safety, as well as scientific and research collaboration, according to HHS spokesperson Holly Babin. HHS last year through agencies such as NIH, CDC and FDA committed $30 million to U.S.-India collaboration for various programs, including HIV surveillance and treatment, Bloomberg reports (Seshadri/Blum, Bloomberg, 1/7).
According to the United News of India, the Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine provides treatment to more than 30,000 people living with HIV/AIDS from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other Indian states annually (United News of India, 1/5). Leavitt on Monday said that GHTM is an "extraordinarily fine testing center and clinical delivery system," adding that HHS, CDC and NIH are proud to be part of its development (Economic Times, 1/7). Under the third phase of India's National AIDS Control Programme, 10 additional hospitals will be identified over the next five years and developed into centers using the GHTM model (United News of India, 1/5).
During his visit, Leavitt also plans to meet with senior government officials, university faculty and students, and business leaders. According to an e-mailed statement, Leavitt will visit facilities that produce food, medicine and other products exported to the U.S. Leavitt -- as well as FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and David Hopper, U.S. consul general to South India -- on Tuesday are scheduled to visit a generic drug plant operated by India's largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories.
"Our commitment to India" and to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is a "strong and ongoing one," Leavitt said, adding that in his reauthorization request for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, President Bush is "seeking to double the money we can spend to help our friends around the world, including India" (Bloomberg, 1/7). Leavitt also said that HIV/TB co-infection is "ravaging" the country (Economic Times, 1/7).
Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who visited Loyola College with Leavitt on Monday, said that HIV/AIDS awareness efforts should focus more on rural populations because of the high HIV prevalence recorded in such groups. Leavitt and Ramadoss attended the launch of a life skills curriculum designed for Loyola's Red Ribbon Club (The Hindu, 1/8). Ramadoss also called for increased sex education in the country. "As much as 86% of HIV transmission is through unsafe sex," he said, adding, "Thus, over 600 million youth in our country are at risk due to lack of awareness. All this while, we were doing sex and not talking about it. It is time we talked about it" (New Indian Express, 1/8). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.