Regimen to prevent mother-to-child HIV spread

Children of HIV positive mothers may have a lesser chance of contracting the deadly virus if the government's plan to introduce a new multiple drug regimen for positive mothers takes off successfully.

The regimen for curbing mother-to-child transmission of HIV was one of the components of the Rs 14,300-crore fourth phase of the national AIDS control programme that aims to halve the number of HIV-infected individuals from the 2007 level.

“Normally, the rate of mother-to-child transmission of the virus varies between 15-40 per cent. With a single drug (Neviripine), the transmission rate is halved. But less than five per cent of the babies will carry the virus from the mother if the multi-drug regimen kicks in successfully,” said an official of the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco).

Every year, there are 14,000 new HIV infections among Indian children, which exposes the limitation of the existing scheme under which a single drug is given to a HIV positive mother.

By the end of 2014, Naco plans to detect and cover more than 80 per cent infected pregnant mothers in high prevalent states. This is likely to cover 30,000-40,000 positive mothers.

“We will also introduce third line anti-retroviral therapy for those, who failed the second line. The move aims at increasing the life span of HIV positive patients. We will also scale up the second line of the ART,” Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here, while launching the programme.

The first line of HIV drugs cost approximately Rs 5,500 per person every year, whereas the second line drugs for an infected individual costs Rs 15,000 per year.

“The third line on the other hand would cost Rs 15,000-20,000 per person per month. We will need Rs 29 crore to roll out the programme in the first year,” Lov Verma, secretary in the Department of AIDS Control, told Deccan Herald.

More HIV patients will receive free treatment as the government has expanded the eligibility parameter. According to the new criterion – recommended by the technical resource group of Naco – HIV positive persons with a CD4 count (a measure of viral load) of 500 would be eligible for free medicines.
Several studies have indicated that HIV therapies are best started before the CD4 count falls below 350, which is the criterion Naco uses at present. The new criterion would bring in an additional 1-1.2 lakh HIV positive people under the ART net.
DH News Service

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