Patients suffering from AIDS need no longer worry about the heavy expenses of treatment. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) recently stated before the Bombay High Court that it would provide “free of cost appropriate” treatment to HIV-positive patients in the state of Maharashtra.
NGOs working in the field of HIV/AIDS see this as a landmark development as it will ensure proper healthcare for HIV patients, including that of easy access to first-line as well as second-line anti-retroviral therapy (ART). The treatment for AIDS patients will be made available by NACO through the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS).
NACO made this statement before the high court in response to the public interest litigation filed by an NGO, Network of Maharashtra People with HIV.
"The high court disposed of our litigation, which had sought easy access to second-line ART for HIV patients from the government, in view of the promise by NACO to provide ‘free of cost’, ‘appropriate treatment’. Thus, NACO has now given commitment before the court to provide all necessary healthcare for HIV patients," Pravin Salunke of Pune Network of Maharashtra People with HIV told Sakaal Times. "Mumbai-based NGO Human Rights Law Network has provided legal assistance to us for raising and fighting this case and we are thankful to them," he said.
With first-line ART being available at several ART centres in the state, NGOs are now more concerned about patients who need second-line ART drugs, which are expensive and which patients cannot afford on their own.
As per the data available with the Network of Maharashtra People with HIV, over 200 HIV-positive patients in the state are in dire need of second-line ART drugs at present. Second-line ART drugs, given to patients whose bodies have become resistant to first-line ART medicines, are available only at J J Hospital in Mumbai.
(Source: Aids-India, August 24, 2009)