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Centre Rolls Out Crucial HIV Test, Two Years After It Was First Announced

The test which is part of the WHO guidelines for PLHIV and India's AIDS programme has been ctiticised in the past by doctors and health activists for not making it accessible.

News18

Updated:February 27, 2018, 11:08 AM IST
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Centre Rolls Out Crucial HIV Test, Two Years After It Was First Announced
Picture only for representation

New Delhi: Nearly two years after the date of announcement, viral load testing has been rolled out for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV), in India. The test, crucial for monitoring the progress of AntiRetroviral Therapy (ART), was announced for all PLHIV by union health minister JP Nadda, on Monday.

All 12 lakh PLHIV currently on ART in government centres across the country will now get their viral load count tested once a year for free.

The centre's National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) earlier had only ten machines to conduct this test, contrary to 80 machines now. It will also establish a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with a private firm to outsource the testing, NACO joint secretary Alok Saxena told News18.

By March, 15 machines will be installed, by June almost half and by the end of the year, all 80 machines should be installed in 80 medical colleges across 24 states.

So far, the Indian MNC Metropolis has entered into a PPP with the government through a tender.

As per news reports from April 2016, the government intended to launch the viral viral load test for PLHIV in order , to determine who needed second line treatment in case the first line of treatment failed.

The test was to be scaled up to at least 10 lakh patients, but failed due to procurement issues, said Saxena.

The test which is part of the WHO guidelines for PLHIV and India's AIDS programme has been ctiticised in the past by doctors and health activists for not making it accessible.

So far NACO only had the CD4 count test, which counts white blood cells in the body. CD4 cells or the white blood cells that fight infection and provide immunity are the ones that get afflicted by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Successful ART reduces the virus to such an extent that it doesn't get transmitted during unprotected sex or when an HIV positive mother gives birth to an HIV negative child -- means their count goes up.

However, as Saxena explained, this is a proxy test. The real indicator is the viral load in a person's body which the CD4 count does not capture. The viral load test was conducted only on a case to case basis, where it was clear that the first line of ART was failing.

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