NEW DELHI: The Union ministry of health has proposed increasing the funding of anti-HIV/AIDS programmes more than five times to a record Rs11,585 crore. The money will be spent in the prevention, care, support and treatment of the syndrome. Spread over the next five years, the effort will be supported by the World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other agencies.
According to latest available data, India had 5.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in 2005, fewer only than South Africa. HIV/AIDS activists have criticized New Delhi for not combating the spread of the disease seriously. The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), the nodal agency for HIV/AIDS under the Union health ministry, will administer the spending under the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) III. This third phase is scheduled to start from 1 April this year; the programme will run till 2011.
The proposed plan, currently being given a final touch, has received in-principle approval from the Planning Commission.
About three quarters of the programme will be funded by the World Bank. “UNDP, UNAIDS, ILO, the Global Fund for TB, Malaria and HIV/AIDS, USAID and World Food Programme will provide assistance too,” said a NACO official, who preferred not to be identified.
The Gates foundation, led by Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates and his wife, and the Clinton Foundation, led by former US president Bill Clinton, are expected to be major contributors, the official added.
The government has increased the fund allocation for the care, support and treatment of PLHA to roughly a third, which is around Rs3,667 crore. The remaining two-thirds of the allocation will be spent on spreading HIV/AIDS awareness in the country. HIV/AIDS activists said the expansion of funding to fight the syndrome was welcome, but they said they were unhappy with the amount set aside for treatment.
“This kind of allocation was long overdue. A lot remains to be done,” said Nivedita Dasgupta, director of Modicare Foundation, which is working with companies to formulate a workplace policy for PLHA.
In NACP III, the focus on the six states with high prevalence of HIV/AIDS—Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Nagaland—will remain, but it will be fine-tuned to the district level to ensure that HIV-infected districts elsewhere are not missed out.
The funding is adequate for five years, said Jacob John, advocacy officer of the Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, but the government should also provide the expensive drugs needed in the second-line regimen, he added. First-line HIV/AIDS treatment requires a cocktail of Zidovudine, Lamivudine, Statuvudine and Tenofovir—drugs that are provided free by NACO.
NACP II had an allocation of Rs2,065 crore and spent only 18-20% on care and treatment. “There is sufficient awareness in certain HIV high-prevalence states and we need to focus on the needs of those who have already contracted the disease in such areas,” added another NACO official.
Once resistance to the drugs set in, patients require drugs such as Indinavir, Ritonavir and Lopinavir. These drugs, costing up to Rs11,000 a month, are not provided by the government, leaving patients in an advanced stage of the syndrome to fend for themselves.