India To Launch No-Cost HIV Testing Program for People Diagnosed With TB
India plans to launch a program that will offer no-cost HIV tests to people who have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, the Times of India reports. The country already has integrated its HIV/AIDS and TB control programs and will offer the no-cost tests at its 4,567 integrated counseling and testing centers. According to India's National AIDS Control Organisation, TB is responsible for a majority of deaths among HIV-positive people. In addition, more than 60% of people living with HIV/AIDS in India contract and eventually die of TB, according to NACO.
If a person is diagnosed with HIV/TB coinfection, he or she will be given a prophylactic treatment with the antibiotic cotrimoxazole and will then be referred to the closest antiretroviral center for treatment, the Times reports. The new program will launch by Oct. 1 in the nine states with the largest HIV/TB coinfection burdens. The states are Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu.
In the rest of the country, selective testing for HIV/AIDS will continue for people who have been diagnosed with TB if they have "high-risk behavior and are suffering from sexually transmitted infections," Rahul Thakur, NACO's national consultant for HIV/TB, said. He added that between 50,000 and 80,000 people are living with HIV/TB coinfection in the country. In the last year, health authorities have identified 40,000 people living with HIV/TB coinfection, an increase from 9,000 in the previous year, Thakur said. He added that India plans to establish 800 additional integrated testing and counseling centers by the end of 2008.
Neeraj Raizada, the World Health Organization's consultant at the central TB division, said that HIV/AIDS and TB testing facilities in all nine states are decentralized and within close proximity to each other. "So as soon as a person is diagnosed with TB, we will offer him voluntary HIV testing. If found positive, he will be counseled, put on prophylactic treatment and sent to the nearest antiretroviral center on priority basis," Raizada said. Thakur said that when people are diagnosed with HIV/TB coinfection, they will be monitored to ensure they follow the correct treatment regimen (Sinha, Times of India, 6/12).