Over three million people were getting free drugs to treat AIDS in the world by the end of 2007, 1.1 lakh being Indians. Of these, five lakh were women – up from 3.5 lakh in 2006. They were receiving drugs such as Navirapine to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus to their unborn children.
About 20,000 children also received AIDS drugs in 2007 – up from 1.27 lakh the previous year. Though the number of people on medication increased by one million worldwide over 2006, two-thirds of those who need medication still don’t get it, said World Health Organisation in its new report Towards universal access: scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector.
The total number of people on treatment accounts for 31 per cent of the 9.7 million people living with HIV in low and middle income countries who need the treatment. The HIV virus that causes AIDS infects an estimated 33 million people globally, mostly in poor, sub-Saharan Africa, and has killed 25 million.
An estimated 2.5 million people live with HIV/AIDS in India and the National AIDS Control Organisation provides free treatment to all those who need it under a government programme. Since about 3 per cent of people who receive first-line drugs develop immunity to it, NACO introduced second-line AIDS treatment to people who have developed resistance to existing drugs at JJ Hospital in Mumbai and the Tambaram Antiretroviral Centre in Chennai this year.
The increase in access to cheap treatment - on an average, USD 140 per patient per year - because of the widespread availability of cheap generics made by companies such as Cipla in India. Poor health infrastructure, however, is a major hurdle in delivering good care.