KERALA

Free ART drugs from October

KOCHI, AUG. 15. The State Government will start providing anti-retroviral treatment (ART) drugs to HIV-positive persons in the five Government medical college hospitals in the State from October.

Management of lifestyle

Addressing a press meet here on Thursday, the Kerala State AIDS Control Society Director, Bharat Bhusan, said the medicines were expected to provide HIV-positive persons better management of their lifestyle by considerably prolonging full-blown AIDS conditions.

These drugs are usually prescribed when the white blood cell (WBC) count in blood becomes less that 200 per cubic millimetres. The Government has earmarked Rs.1.65 crores for distributing the medicines on the estimation that there are 75,000 to one lakh HIV cases in the State.

Of these, 1,700 are AIDS patients. The State has so far reported about 600 AIDS deaths. He said new-generation medicines for HIV-positive pregnant women would also be made available to help reduce the number of babies born with HIV-positive status.

HIV-positive children

Though 50 per cent of these children die before reaching the age of five, those who survive face discrimination from society. The new medicines would reduce the chances of transmission of infection from the mother to the child from 13 per cent to 2 per cent. As much as 0.3 per cent of pregnant women are HIV-positive. According to Mr. Bhusan, it took some time for the State to make the medicines available to the patients as the Central Government had been concentrating more on providing the medicines to States which have reported a higher HIV-positive infestation rate.

The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), nodal agency for implementing the Central Government's policies through its State bodies, had provided a grant of Rs.4.78 crores to the State in 2003-04 for developing the infrastructure for checking the spread of AIDS.

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