Half a million died of AIDS last year

There are 2.35 million Indians living with HIV. There were 6,92,200 new HIV infections and 5,89,600 AIDS related deaths reported in India in 2019

Half a million died of AIDS last year
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Biswajeet Banerjee

India is set to miss yet another target – this time to control the spread of HIV. India is the signatory of the World Health Organisation’s target of 90-90-90 by 2020, but with only a month to go, it is clear that it will not be able to meet the target.

The 90-90-90 target meant that India would ensure that 90 % of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) know their status, 90 % of them are on lifesaving Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), and 90% of those on ART are virally suppressed.

This year, India has officially achieved the target of 74 % PLHIV, 84 % of these are put on ART and of these ART cases 82 % are virally suppressed. In 2018, 81% received testing, 67% received treatment, and 59% had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with reduced risk of infecting others globally.

Dr Ishwar Gilada, President of AIDS Society of India (ASI), who also represents Asia Pacific region in the Governing Council of International AIDS Society (IAS), said that with just a month left for 2020 to end, it is unlikely that India will meet the WHO target.

“We can blame the spread of Covid pandemic for this delay,” Dr Gilada told this reporter from Mumbai.

Indian government has set a target to end AIDS by 2030 and to achieve this India needs to put PLHIV on ART which can result in reduction of AIDS deaths.

“During the pandemic, the work on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention was stalled which resulted in India failing to meet the WHO target. This means additional focus is required in the coming years to meet the target,” Prof Vinod jain, Dean Paramedical Sciences, King George’s Medical university (KGMU) says.

With the onslaught of Covid-19 pandemic, community networks and HIV experts of ASI and National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) did step up to ensure uninterrupted supply of ART, but several challenges remained. HIV related services, such as those for co-infections and co-morbidities, remained beyond reach for many. HIV key populations, including sex workers, LGBTIQ+ communities for instance, were facing several challenges to tide through the lockdown.

“India’s National Health Policy (NHP 2017) as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both promise to end AIDS by 2030. Only 121 months are left to meet these targets. We need to achieve zero new transmission of HIV if we are to deliver on the promise of ending AIDS in the next 10 years” said Dr N Kumarasamy, Secretary General of ASI, and the Chief and Director of Infectious Diseases Medical Centre at Voluntary Health Services (VHS) Hospital in Chennai.

Dr Naresh Goel, Deputy Director General of National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said to mark World AIDS Day on the theme of “Global solidarity, resilient services”, involvement of the private sector is crucial to accelerate progress towards ending AIDS.

“HIV virus is going to stay for years to come because people living with HIV can live healthy normal and fruitful lives given the scientific evidence we have today. But there should be no complacency to end AIDS pandemic, Dr Gilada said.

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