NEW DELHI, India, Nov. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bowing to an increasing need for more effective AIDS treatments in India and recent high-profile public advocacy from a broad coalition of AIDS activists, India's National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and Health Minister A. Ramadoss will announce the rollout of lifesaving second-line antiretroviral treatment (ART) in India in a ceremony on World AIDS Day, Saturday, December 1st. NACO's rollout of second-line AIDS treatment will begin in January, and the government's initial goal is to have 5,000 people on second-line ART by the end of December 2008.
Earlier this month, a group of activists and organizations including AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and AHF/India Cares joined together as the Coalition for Treatment Access (CATA) in a public appeal to the Honorable Dr. Manmohan Singh, India's Prime Minister, urging him to intercede and direct NACO to rollout second-line treatment in India. The appeal was delivered in a formal letter to the Prime Minister and also was shared with Indian civil society in a print advertisement which ran in major Indian newspapers including The Hindu (New Delhi) and the Financial Express (Mumbai) on Thursday November 15, 2007.
"We are pleased that NACO will finally begin providing second-line treatment; however, 5,000 people is a small percentage of those that do need, or will soon need, the treatments in India, and we urge NACO to consider this as they develop and finalize its rollout strategy," said Chinkholal Thangsing, M.D., Asia Pacific Bureau Chief for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and who is based in New Delhi. "Time is of the essence to saves these lives, and NACO's announcement, although long-awaited, is short on urgency and on the scale required. AHF/India Cares already provides second line treatment to some of our patients in need -- and we have seen firsthand how this treatment has quickly turned back death."
India is thought to have about 2.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS; of these, just over 100,000 are currently receiving first-line antiretroviral AIDS treatment at NACO-supported treatment centers and clinics throughout the country.
In early November, AHF/India Cares, which operates free AIDS treatment clinics in India in Mysore, New Delhi and in Guwahati, (Assam State, in collaboration with NACO) that provide treatment, care and support services to over 5,000 Indian clients, announced that it has been providing lifesaving second-line antiretroviral treatment (ART) free to 30 AIDS activists and clients whose initial or first-line AIDS drug regimens have failed them.
"We do not want this long-waited announcement on second-line provision to overshadow the continuing, critical need for first-line AIDS treatment access in India," said Dr. Mahesh Ganesan, Advocacy Coordinator for AHF/India Cares. "While many are in urgent need of second-line treatment due to the failure of their first-line treatments, there are a million people in India that need, or will soon need, basic, first-line antiretroviral treatment, and NACO is failing them every day that such treatment is not more widely accessible."
"There also needs to be a galvanized effort by the Ministry of Health to provide comprehensive and effective HIV testing, first-line and second-line treatment to all in need in India -- at a much faster pace and on a much larger scale," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President in a statement from Los Angeles. "Until widespread, accessible HIV testing is in place in India, people will continue to die without knowing their status or having accessed treatment. There is no time for short-sightedness -- India needs bold leadership and fast action to stop HIV/AIDS, and if NACO cannot provide this, then the Prime Minister or the Minister of Health should designate another body that can get the job done."
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 19 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org
About AHF/India Cares
AHF/India Cares centers provide testing, psycho-social support services and anti-retroviral treatment including both pediatric and second-line treatment. The facilities provide comprehensive HIV/AIDS care and treatment and holistic services, and serve as one-stop shops for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs).
In the Asia/Pacific region, AIDS Healthcare Foundation currently provides free anti-retroviral treatment services to people in need through its clinics in India, Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia and China.
SOURCE AIDS Health Foundation