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Free HIV Treatment to Be Launched for Children

On the eve of the World AIDS Day (Dec 1), India will launch a new scheme to provide free treatment to 20,000 HIV infected children, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said here Monday. //

"On Nov 30, we will be launching a scheme to provide free ARV treatment for children using paediatric anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. We have established a protocol for the paediatric drugs and three to four pharmaceutical companies are part of the process," Ramadoss told delegates at the ongoing India Economic Summit here, jointly organised by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"Initially we aim to provide free treatment to 20,000 children. We have been intensely campaigning but have so far being able to identify only 1,500 children for treatment," the minister said.

The state-run National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) estimates there are around 65,000 kids with HIV infection, out of an estimated 5.2 million HIV infected people in the country.

The health ministry is targeting providing free ARV treatment to 100,000 people through hospitals and health clinics in the country by next year.

So far around 48,000 people are getting the treatment under government run programmes while over 15 companies are also helping to provide treatment to an estimated 35,000 employees, the minister said.

In addition, the government is planning to set up distribution of free and subsidised condoms through vending machines installed at strategic locations like truck hubs and red light area.

"So far we have installed 13,000 condom-vending machines and plan to add 12,000 more by 2006-07 fiscal end (March 31). By 2007 end we hope to have in place 100,000 vending machines," the minister stated.

In addition to the problem of tackling a rise in number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country, the minister said an estimated 60 percent of the people have got tuberculosis due to the rel uctance to come forward for treatment leaving them vulnerable to opportune diseases.

Besides HIV, India is striving to provide free treatment to an estimated 1.8 million people who are diagnosed to have tuberculosis every year.

Annually about 1.4 million receive treatment for tuberculosis under the directly observed short-course treatment strategy (DOTS), which has been yielding considerable good results.

In the last six years, around 6.3 million people have been cured of tuberculosis, the minister stated.


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