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Staying alive during wait for ARVs is now even more critical

Written by: Staff
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Hyderabad, Feb 23 (UNI) The World Health Organization (WHO) and the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announcement last year that the '3by5' initiative is ''unlikely'' to be achieved by the end of 2005, places greater urgency on the need to scale up access to other comprehensive healthcare options that could help people with HIV stay alive while they wait for antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday in connection with the three-day ninth national convention of INN beginning today, Dr Radium Bhattacharya, President of Indian Network of NGOs on AIDS (INN) said '3by5'initiative had promised to provide ARV to 3,55,000 people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs) in India by end of 2005, whereas NACO's free-ARV roll-out programme could barely manage to reach 15,000 PLHAs.

''We need to keep PLHAs alive by all possible means till expanded access to ARV reaches them. Along with ARV expansion it is vital to strengthen and expand comprehensive care and support services for people living with HIV, and help them stay alive longer'' she said.

Most of the deaths caused by HIV/AIDS are attributed to preventable treatable causes like those of TB, diarrhoea, malnutrition or hunger. ''It is high time we make multisectoral AIDS response on prevention, treatment, care and support a reality in India to help control the pandemic, she added.

The 3by5 disappointment indicated that where large unmet ARV needs persist, a broad package of other readily-available treatment and care options should be urgently provided to keep PLHAs alive while they wait for ARV programmes to deliver on their promise.

India for instance, is one of the 22 countries home to over 80 per cent of the world's tuberculosis (TB) cases. While striving to meet ARV needs, care services should also provide prevention and treatment of the HIV-associated opportunistic infections (OIs), such as tuberculosis (TB), which HIV-positive people in India are especially susceptible to.

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