India on Wednesday launched third-line drug therapy for people living with HIV/AIDS and extended free anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to more of them by revising the eligibility norm.

The third-line therapy, sometimes called salvage or rescue therapy, is prescribed for people who have limited drug options left — after the failure of at least two drug regimens and with evidence of HIV resistance to at least one drug in each line or the latter cause alone. The highly expensive therapy will be provided free.

Announcing these measures at the launch of the National AIDS Control Programme Phase IV (2012-2017) here, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the third-line therapy would enhance longevity and improve the quality of life of patients.

For receiving free ART, the minimum CD4-count limit had been reduced from 500 to 350. The count is a measure of the viral load.

Bill in Rajya Sabha

Meanwhile, the government tabled the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, in the Rajya Sabha. It seeks to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and protect the human rights of people living with it.

At present, India is estimated to have 2.39 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Bill seeks to prohibit any kind of discrimination against the infected person — for instance, denial or termination of employment or occupation, unfair treatment, denial of access to any sector and forcible HIV testing.