The Union Health Minister for Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda on Monday launched viral load test for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). Under this program, PLHIV would be provided free test facility at least once a year. The scheme to benefit 12 lakh HIV/AIDS patients who are currently on treatment.
Viral load test measures the amount of virus in the blood sample. It is used to diagnose acute HIV infection and to monitor response to antiretroviral therapy (ART).
“This Viral Load test is of immense importance to monitor the effectiveness of treatment of patients taking lifelong Antiretroviral Therapy,” Nadda said while speaking at a function in New Delhi. The Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel was also present on this occasion.
Terming the initiative as yet another milestone by the Narendra Modi Government in the direction of providing quality and accessible healthcare to people of India, the Health Minister further stated, “Viral Load testing will empower medical officers at 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.”
Speaking on this occasion, the minister further said that ending stigma is essential 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 a historical step. Very few countries globally have such a law to protect rights of people infected with HIV,” Nadda said.
The Union Health Minister 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 at the function.
Nadda also listed the key provisions of HIV/AIDS Bill including 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.
Speaking at the function, MoS Health Anupriya Patel said that India is committed to achieving the global 90-90-90 target by 2020.
“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,” Patel said.