Several organisations in the field also face the challenge of trying to convince people, who are living with HIV and are relatively healthy, to start taking tablets.
As many as 23,000 more HIV positive persons have been placed on antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment across the state, as part of the Centre’s ‘Test and Treat policy for HIV’, which was launched in May last year.
Officials from the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) said they were able to initiate treatment for 23,000 HIV positive persons in the span of a year. “We still have to place another 7,000 persons on ART,” they said.
There are 2.03 lakh HIV positive persons availing ART in Maharashtra.
Earlier, the Union Health Ministry had intensified its efforts to identify all those estimated to be infected with HIV. On May 5 last year, an official notification was issued on the initiation of ART and as per the revised guidelines, it was decided to “treat all” living with the HIV, regardless of their CD4 cell count, a test that measures the strength of one’s immune system.
CD4 counts are most often used to evaluate the immune system of a person with HIV and a normal count ranges between 500-1,200 cells per cubic millimetre of blood. Earlier, less than 500 persons who had very low CD4 count were put on ART.
Officials admitted that it was a challenge to identify people who were HIV positive but didn’t suffer from any symptoms. Several organisations in the field also face the challenge of trying to convince people, who are living with HIV and are relatively healthy, to start taking tablets. “They do not have any symptoms and are reluctant to take medication,” said MSACS officials.
Some HIV positive persons also migrate to other places and reaching out to them, and convincing them to start treatment again, is another challenge, they said.
On an average, every year, around 22-23,000 new HIV cases are detected across Maharashtra. Now, with the help of the HIV positive network groups, efforts have been taken to encourage them to enroll for ART. There are 73 ART centres and 178 Link ART centres across the state to dispense medicines. Link ART centres are subsidiary centres to dispense medicines, set up to minimise travel time and inconvenience for HIV positive persons.
A total of 8,131 persons, who have failed the first line of treatment, have now been started on second line drugs. State AIDS Clinical Expert panels, which include a gynaecologist, pathologist and others, have been appointed at 12 medical colleges. They review the case and then recommend second line treatment. While B J Medical college has a panel, another one has been set up at the Armed Forces Medical College.
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