Medical groups working for Human Immunodeficiency Virus research and aid have welcomed the Centre’s “Test and Treat” policy, which aims to provide treatment to all men, women and children diagnosed with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. The government on Friday launched the policy that aims to provide anti-retroviral therapy to those diagnosed HIV positive, irrespective of their CD4 count or clinical stage. Earlier, only patients with a CD4 count of less than 500 were provided free treatment.

Dr IS Gilada, president of AIDS Society of India, told The Indian Express that most of their suggestions, such as provision of life and medical insurance to the patients, right of adoption for couples affected by HIV and right of residence, were incorporated in the recently-passed HIV/AIDS Act.

The United Nations’ AIDS support group believes that the new policy will make HIV treatment accessible to patients. “It will keep individuals, families and communities healthy and productive and ensure that India ends the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” Steve Kraus, director of UNAIDS, told Hindustan Times.

Earlier this month, the Lok Sabha had passed the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017. “This will improve longevity and the quality of life of those infected, as well as save them from many opportunistic infections, especially tuberculosis,” Health Minister JP Nadda had said.

India has nearly 1,600 anti-retroviral therapy sites where treatment is provided, Nadda had said, adding that more than 1.5 lakh deaths had been averted because of the treatment. “We will be able to avert 4.5 lakh more deaths b expanding the provision of ART,” he added.

The health minister had asserted that the Centre will also develop a National Strategic Plan for HIV for the next seven years, which will be “crucial for ending AIDS”. Of the estimated 21 lakh HIV patients, the government had been aware of only 14 lakh, he had said. “To detect the rest, we have revised the national HIV testing guidelines and aim to reach out to people in the community and test them with proper counselling and consent.”