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    Half-Hearted Government Support Puts Millions at Risk for HIV in India

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    India’s healthcare system has been grappling with the unavailability of pediatric medicine for HIV infections since March 2017 when the manufacturer stopped supplying the drug to the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) due to non-payment. Basic preventive measures are also not in full supply, field workers told Sputnik.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — The pace of decline in HIV infections cases in India has slowed significantly. Judging by the data released after a long gap by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), new HIV infections declined only 27% between 2010 and 2017 posing a major challenge for the NACO which had set a target of 75% reduction by 2020. NACO is the apex body responsible for raising awareness about HIV-AIDS as well as lab testing for detection of new cases.

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    "There is a segment of the community that feels that the moment they come to the system they will be humiliated and discriminated against. So this segment is not participating in our activities whether it is awareness activities or testing activities," Dr. Naresh Goel, Deputy Director General of NACO which is part of India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told Sputnik.

    But this is only one side of the story. A report by UNAIDS in July of this year highlighted a "dangerous complacency" over awareness programs, and treatment of HIV globally including in India.

    An official has told Sputnik that the government has not been able to solve the problem of unavailability of pediatric formulations for HIV infections since March 2017 when the manufacturer stopped supplying the drug to NACO due to non-payment issues.

    "The shortage of funds is always there because the kind of elimination aim that we are having. We are having incremental funding. Funding is increasing but not at the rate at which it should increase," Goel added.

    Several field workers were contacted by Sputnik. They said, under the condition of anonymity, that basic preventive measures like condoms are not being supplied in the required quantity, thereby increasing the risk of HIV risk among sex workers and transgender people.

    The northeastern part of India is the most vulnerable, according to the data released by NACO. Mizoram has the highest adult HIV prevalence in the country, followed by Manipur and Nagaland. 

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    Meanwhile, the Indian government has announced implementation of a crucial law called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Act to ensure equal rights to persons affected by HIV — AIDS in getting treatment, admission to educational institutions and jobs.  

    "It is basically a reformative law. Wherever we find some kind of discrimination happening we will sensitize that person more; will put that person for a special training for a week or attach that person with NGOs so the next time they do not discriminate against HIV-positive people at the workplace like termination from a job or putting the person in a lower job or giving them a lesser salary," Naresh Goel concluded.

     

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    NGOs, pediatricians, awareness, HIV/AIDs, prevention, funding, India
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