Every month, 500 more kids to go on ART

MEXICO CITY: In a massive scale-up of life-saving anti-retroviral treatment (ART) for paediatric cases, 500 new HIV infected children are being placed on ART every month by India’s National AIDS Control Programme, a top official told TOI on the sidelines of the 17th International AIDS Conference here.

Paediatric HIV drugs are also being made available in all the 174 ART centres in India so that children get equal importance against adults as far as treatment for the deadly disease is concerned.

ART will increase the lifespan of these infected children by 10-15 years. With a paediatric drug formulation guideline in place, which was created by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics for Naco in 2006, toxic HIV drugs are no longer being administered to children by dividing fractions of adult formulations according to the childs age, which often led to under- or over-dosage, causing resistance to the drug.

Koutenya Sinha, for TNN

The health ministry has also cleared the setting up of seven state-of-the-art paediatric ART centres in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Imphal which will not only help scale up Indias paediatric HIV programme but will also deal with complicated cases of drug resistance among such infected children.

According to Naco, India is home to 100,000 HIV infected children of which 40,000 urgently require ART to survive. However, only 10,000 such children are receiving the treatment. India has a stock of paediatric doses of ART to treat 15,000 children which has been donated to Naco by the Clinton Foundation.

“Till now, all ART centres had medical officers administering the anti-AIDS drugs, most of whom werent paediatricians. So now, we have decided to train all paediatricians in hospital-based ART centres on the drug dosage protocol for children with HIV. We will continue to upscale the paediatric HIV programme till we have all the 40,000 children needing ART, receiving it,” Nacos ART consultant Dr B B Rewari told TOI.

Talking about how children get infected, Dr Rewari said about 35% of the 2.6 million estimated HIV cases in India are women. About 15%-35% of the children get the infection from their mothers. Majority of the children living with HIV could be saved by timely administration of paediatric ART, he added. HIV infection progresses more aggressively in infants than in adults.

The immune system in childhood is underdeveloped and acquiring HIV infection early in a childs life thwarts its further development.

"Early treatment within the first few months of life can dramatically improve the survival rates of children with HIV. Thats why the DNA-based tests will be vital in India’s fight against HIV," Dr Rewari added.



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