HIV: Government to provide free of cost viral load testing for patients

The initiative will provide free of cost viral load testing for 12 lakh PLHIV on treatment in the country at least once a year. The health minister further announced that after ‘Treat All’, Viral Load test is a big step forward in treating and monitoring people living with HIV

HIV: Government to provide free of cost viral load testing for patients

Calling it a historic day, J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare launched the ‘Viral load testing for all People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV).’

“This viral load test is of immense importance to monitor the effectiveness of treatment of patients taking lifelong Antiretroviral Therapy,” he said. Anupriya Patel, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare was also present at the launch function.

He further said that routine viral load testing will optimise the utilisation of 1st line regimens, thus preventing drug resistance and ensuring the longevity of people living with HIV.

“Viral Load testing will empower medical officers at Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)) to detect failure on first line treatment early and therefore save PLHIV from developing resistance to drugs. It will also help in strengthening ‘Mission Sampark’ in tracking LFU (Loss to Follow Up) PLHIV,” Nadda added.

Nadda informed that in 2017, India revised the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) treatment protocols to initiate all PLHIV on ART ‘Treat All.’

“This ‘Treat All’ initiative was started to ensure that treatment is started early and the virus transmission is curtailed both at the individual and the community level. Now about 12 lakh PLHIV are availing the benefit of free treatment from more than 530 ART centres,” Nadda stated.

Laying stress on addressing stigma and discrimination towards HIV, Nadda said that ending stigma is of paramount importance to enable persons infected and affected with HIV access health services.

“To facilitate reduction in stigma and discrimination, the long pending HIV/AIDS Act has been passed, which is an historical step. Very few countries globally have such a law to protect rights of people infected with HIV,” Nadda elaborated.

The health minister further informed that the key provisions of HIV/AIDS Bill are prohibition of discrimination, informed consent, non-disclosure of HIV status, anti-retroviral therapy and opportunistic infection management, protection of property of affected children, safe working environment and appointment of ombudsman in every State.

At the function, J P Nadda also released the national guidelines for HIV-1 viral load laboratory testing, national operational guidelines for viral load testing, standard operating procedure for HIV-1 quant assay with CBNAAT and guidelines on quality monitoring system for outsourced viral load tests.

Speaking at the occasion, the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Anupriya Patel said that India is committed to achieving the global 90-90-90 target by 2020.

“With launch of test and treat, there is increase in number of PLHIV needing treatment and thus the viral load testing. With increase in number of PLHIV on treatment the monitoring needs have also increased. For achieving this, NACO has scaled up the viral load testing facility in the country to monitor the viral load suppression,” Anupriya added.

She also commended NACO for its global recognition and committed to providing all support to the people living with HIV/AIDS.