India adopts policy to treat all people living with HIV

4 May 2017 – The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed the announcement by the Government of India to launch a "Test and Treat Policy for HIV".

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Shri J.P. Nadda launches Test and Treat policy.
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Shri J.P. Nadda launches Test and Treat policy.

WHO announced a global policy to treat all people with HIV in September 2015, with the full guidelines published in 2016. "Anyone infected with HIV should begin antiretroviral therapy (ART) as soon after diagnosis as possible,” said WHO, upon releasing the guidelines. “The expanded use of ART is supported by recent findings from clinical trials confirming that early use of ART keeps people living with HIV alive and healthier, and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to partners."

The new HIV policy was launched on 28 April 2017 in India by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Shri J.P. Nadda. "As soon as a person is tested and found to be positive,” he said, “they will be provided with ART, irrespective of their CD count or clinical stage. This applies for all men, women, adolescents and children who have been diagnosed HIV-positive. This will improve longevity and quality of life for those infected, and also save them from many opportunistic infections, especially tuberculosis."

To implement the "Test and Treat Policy for HIV", the country commits to intensify its efforts to find all people infected with HIV. "Out of an estimated 2.1 million people living with HIV in India, only 1.4 million are aware of their infection,” said Shri J.P. Nadda at the launch. “To detect the remaining people, we have revised our national HIV testing guidelines. We aim to reach out to people in the community and test them where they are, with proper counselling and consent, of course ".

India has the second largest HIV treatment programme in the world. "India adopting a treat-all policy for HIV is a major step forward – no one should be left behind," said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO’s Department of HIV. His comments underline the importance of India’s policy for the global movement to achieve the 90-90-90 targets by 2020.

There is still a long way to go to reach the goal of every HIV-positive person on ART. In December 2016, WHO issued a global progress report, which showed that only 18.2 million people out of an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV had access to treatment at the end of June 2016.