The conference this year holds significance in achieving the 2016 UNGA commitment to end AIDS by 2030
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally addressed the Ministerial meeting of the Global Prevention Coalition (GPC) for HIV Prevention, in New Delhi through video conference.
Hosted by UNAIDS and UNFPA on behalf of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition (GPC), the conference this year holds significance in achieving the 2016 UNGA commitment to end AIDS by 2030. Member States of GPC had agreed to reduce new adult HIV infections by 75 percent at the end of 2020 from 2010 levels.
Acknowledging that Global AIDS response has shown remarkable success in reducing new infections, improving access to prevention services for key population and treatment services for People living with HIV (PLHIV), reducing AIDS related mortality, enabling reduction in mother to child transmission of HIV and creating an enabling environment, Dr Vardhan noted that the organisation “has shown to the world a model where multiple stakeholders can come together and work cohesively towards a common goal.”
Dr Vardhan expressed his elation at the fact that the provision of generic Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARV) from India to the world has had a critical impact in controlling the HIV epidemic. He also observed that the global AIDS response in general has been a fountainhead of innovative service delivery models with rich civil society involvement and cross learning.
Speaking on India’s unique HIV prevention model which is centered around the concept of ‘Social Contracting’ through which the Targeted Interventions (TI) programme is implemented, the Union Health Minister remarked, “With support from Non-Government Organizations, the programme is aimed at providing outreach, service delivery, counselling and testing and ensuring linkages to HIV care. India’s prevention model can be adopted and scaled up in many countries by tailoring the intervention as per local settings. It can also be replicated in other prevention and disease control programmes.”
Dr Vardhan elaborated how India protected the gains made in HIV prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Government of India took swift and timely action by involving communities, civil society, development partners to reach out to the last mile with a robust implementation plan for ARV dispensation. The Government also linked key populations and PLHIV to various social welfare schemes. Advisories and guidance notes were issued by NACO from time to time aligned with global guidelines in the context,” he stated.
The Union Health Minister apprised the audience how India had revamped its Targeted Intervention (TI) programme to focus on hard-to-reach populations to keep its commitments- People living in prisons and other closed settings were considered as priority populations and interventions launched were gradually scaled up since 2016; the HIV Counselling & Testing Services (HCTS), community-based Screening of HIV for improving early diagnosis were also ramped up; the coverage of testing for HIV across the country was increased to achieve the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV. He also added that under the Test and Treat Policy, approximately 50,000 PLHIV who were lost to follow-upwere linked back to Anti-Retroviral Treatment servicesthrough ‘Mission SAMPARK’, whileViral Load Testing facilities have been scaled up from the existing ten public sector labs to 64 labs across the country.
In this regard, he also mentioned the enactment of The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 which has provided a legal and enabling framework for safeguarding the human rights of the infected and affected populations.
Dr Vardhan also warned the various stakeholders of newer vulnerabilities and risks exacerbated by the pandemic that warrant a graded and coordinated response. He ended his speech by reiterating India’s commitment to achieve the 90-90-90 targets across the country by the end of the current year and also end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.