HIV infection is not the end of life. People can lead a healthy life for a long time with appropriate medical care. Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) effectively suppresses replication, if taken at the right time. Successful viral suppression restores the immune system and halts onset and progression of disease as well as reduces chances of getting opportunistic infections – this is how ART is aimed to work. Medication thus enhances both quality of life and longevity.
Adherence to ART regimen is therefore very vital in this treatment. Any irregularity in following the prescribed regimen can lead to resistance to HIV drugs, and therefore can weaken or negate its effect.
ART is now available free to all those who need it. Public health facilities are mandated to ensure that ART is provided to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). Special emphasis is given to the treatment of sero-positive women and infected children.
ART is initiated depending upon the stage of infection. PLHA with less than 200 CD4 (while blood cells/ mm3) require treatment irrespective of the clinical stage. For PLHA with 200-350 CD4, ART is offered to symptomatic patients. Among those with CD4 of more than 350, treatment is deferred for asymptomatic persons.
There are 127 ART centres operating in the country as of June 2007. By 2012, 250 ART centres will become functional across the country in order to provide people living with HIV/AIDS better access to treatment.
In order to make treatment more accessible ART centres are located in medical colleges, district hospitals and non-profit charitable institutions providing care, support and treatment services to PLHA. A PLHA network person at each of the ART centre facilitates access to care and treatment services at these centres. ART centres also provide counselling and follow up on treatment adherence and support through community care centres.
The primary goal of paediatric prevention, care and treatment programme is to prevent HIV infection to newborns through Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) and provide treatment and care to all children infected by HIV.
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