The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of self-test kits to make HIV diagnosis easier. The device gives results within 15 minutes with 99.7 per cent accuracy.
Even though India does not currently allow the self-test, C.K. Mishra, the Union Health Secretary, said today, which also happens to be World Aids Day, that “India will certainly look at the WHO’s recommendations and evaluate how they can be adopted”.
Around 87 per cent of HIV-infected people in India are not aware that they are infected. And globally, 40 per cent of infected people are unaware that they are living with the virus.
In 2015, there were 2.1 million people in India living with the virus. There were 86,000 new HIV infections and 68,000 AIDS related deaths, according to data from UNAIDS.
The key affected populations are sex workers, homosexuals and people who inject drugs. Transgender people are emerging as a group with high risk of HIV transmission.
The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is responsible for formulating
programmes for preventing HIV in India. It had previously disallowed the
self-test kits because “people could commit suicide after an incorrect positive status”.
An HIV bill which seeks to end discrimination against those living with the virus is pending in the Rajya Sabha. If the bill is passed, then formal mechanisms to probe discrimination complaints will be set up.
The HIV community has rejected the bill because it states that people living with the virus will get free and fair treatment ‘as far as possible’. The ‘as far as possible’ loophole will make it possible for doctors to deny treatment to patients. It makes it difficult to provide a legal case against discrimination in court.