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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Govt of India admits it has no strategy to deal with HIV-affected children

India’s health minister told the Lok Sabha recently that in the absence of proper data on the number of children affected by HIV/AIDS, there is no comprehensive care and treatment strategy for them.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss told the Lok Sabha recently that so far India had no defined strategy to take care of children who have been affected by AIDS. He admitted that this was due to the fact that there was no data on HIV-affected children, particularly orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).

“In the absence of data regarding the number of infected and affected orphans and vulnerable children, no defined strategy could be formulated to target the specific group though these children are in as much need of government intervention as are the HIV-infected lot,” he said.

Although the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has identified 32,803 HIV-positive children and provides support and treatment to 9,478 of them, the organisation finds it difficult to reach out to HIV-affected orphans.

“Keeping track of all HIV-affected orphans is a gigantic task,” says Dr Damoder Bachani, Joint Director, care, support and treatment division of NACO. “Once the parent/s of these HIV-affected children die or stop coming to us for treatment, we lose all contact with such children,” he adds.

Under Phase III of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP-III), 2007-2012, two initiatives were launched: provision of a specific paediatric fixed-dose combination of antiretroviral drugs to infected children, and access to a corpus of $ 14 million from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria Round-IV, in 2007-08, for providing a package of services including medical care for opportunistic infections, psycho-social support, supplementary nutrition, education, etc, over a period of five years.

These interventions also target infected and affected children, including orphans, according to a statement from the government. The programme aims to reach 65,000 children by 2012. Of these, 5,500 children have been taken care of, and NACP-III is expected to provide assistance to 9,500 more children by the end of the year, said the report tabled in the Lok Sabha.


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