The Health Ministry has privatised testing of patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by outsourcing it to the multinational health giant Abbott and Indian diagnostic chain Metropolis. The privatisation exercise will cost the government up to Rs 650 crore, Maitri Porecha reported for DNA.
“Viral load testing”, conducted to monitor the effectiveness of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) – done to slow the rate at which HIV makes copies of itself – over time, has been made available to all persons in India living with HIV (PLHIV) free of cost. Earlier, not all HIV patients could take the test. Only those who had failed to respond to the first line of ART drugs and others who had developed drug resistance were eligible.
Viral load testing will empower medical officers at ART to detect failure on first line treatment early and therefore save PLHIV from developing resistance to drugs. It will also help in strengthening ‘Mission Sampark’ in tracking LFU (loss to follow up) PLHIV and to be brought under ART services.Health Minister J P Nadda
The government has signed up for a six-year contract with Abbott. A test by the company will cost the exchequer Rs 500-600. An Abbott official told DNA that the company plans to start with two lakh tests and scale up to about 12 lakh tests by the sixth year.
Metropolis, the other player in this initiative, will charge the exchequer about twice Abbott’s rate, at Rs 1,200, for a single test. Different prices for the same service for two different companies may raise some questions.
To ensure HIV patients receive early treatment and to curb the transmission of the virus, the government launched an initiative last year to have all PLHIV undergo ART. Now about 1.2 million PLHIV are taking treatment at no charge at over 530 ART centres.
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