Indian Government Launches Campaign To Curb Mother-To-Child HIV Transmissions

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The Indian government has launched a campaign to provide antiretroviral drugs to tens of thousands of pregnant women and infants in an effort to curb mother-to-child HIV transmissions, Indian Health Secretary Naresh Dayal announced Tuesday at a conference in New Delhi, Reuters reports (Reuters, 7/31).

Dayal said an estimated 70,000 HIV-positive children under age 15 live in India and nearly 21,000 children contract the virus annually (IANS/Khaleej Times, 8/1). The government has provided antiretrovirals to about 20,000 women and infants since the country's first HIV case was reported in 1986, Reuters reports. Officials say the new campaign aims to increase that number to nearly 76,000 by 2010 by extending health services to women in rural areas to gauge the HIV status of a larger number of pregnant women (Reuters, 7/31).


Dayal said the government plans to implement a nationwide program called the Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission. Since the introduction of this program four years ago, the government has "counseled and tested nearly five million mothers, detected 47,000 HIV-positive mothers and provided prophylaxis to 20,000 mother-baby pairs," according to Dayal (IANS/Khaleej Times, 8/1).

The government also is providing about 6,500 children with pediatric antiretrovirals and says it has begun efforts to identify thousands more who need treatment, Reuters reports. In addition, India this year plans to introduce pending legislation aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS-related discrimination (Reuters, 7/31).

Child Development Minister Calls for Protection of HIV-Positive Children
Women and Child Development Minster Renuka Chaudhry also at the conference on Tuesday called on people to be sensitive and help protect children who are living with HIV/AIDS, ANI/Daily India reports. Chaudhry said the government has developed a program that will create a foundation within states and districts to prevent and respond to child-protection failures. Under the plan, all states and districts will have child-protection units with a budget of more than two billion rupees, or $49 million, she added.

The plan is being implemented in five states -- Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Andhra Pradesh -- with a budget of 900 million rupees, or about $223,000. The plan will include a team of 25 people in each state and 10 officers at the district level. These units will be supported through various programs that will help to report and track the progress of each child. Chaudhry said she hopes the new structure will provide children and families with better health, education and protection services. "We are working towards meeting international norms of dealing with people affected with HIV/AIDS," Chaudhry said. "But this may not be enough in itself to respond to the needs of each and every child who lives the life of risk or abuse, and even a child who is a victim of exploitation, unless the systems becomes more humane and are sensitive to these issues," she added (ANI/Daily India, 7/31).


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