Though, Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) does not cure HIV/AIDS, but effective antiretroviral regimen inhibit the efficient replication of the HIV, and reduce viremia to undetectable levels. This leads to slowing of disease progression and fewer opportunistic infections and helps people lead more productive lives, with perceptibly reduced stigma and discrimination. Successes achieved by ART in terms of delaying the onset of AIDS have transformed the common perception about HIV from being a “virtual death sentence” to a “chronic manageable illness”.
The free ART initiative in Karnataka was launched on 1st April, 2004. In NACP- III, NACO hopes to provide greater Care, Support and treatment to a larger number of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). It addresses human rights and ethics issues with focus on fundamental rights of the PLHIV and their active involvement.
Implementation of ART Programme:
There is gradual scale up of ART centres in Karnataka from 4 ART centres in year 2015 to 64 ART Centres in 2014-15 (as on March 2015) (Figure 1).
In 2004, there were 2 CD4 machines in Karnataka (figure 2). As there was scale up of ART centres, the number of beneficiaries also increased and 34 CD4 machines were installed and functional in state as on March 2015.
Link ART Centre (LAC) and Link ART Plus Centres (LAC +) :
The rationale behind LAC and LAC plus is to bridge the gap between ICTC (Counseling & Testing services) and CST (Care, Support & Treatment) services. This also help to reduce the travel cost and travel time of PLHIV in accessing ART services. The scope and functions of selected Link ART centres have been expanded to include Pre-ART registration and HIV care at LAC itself. The LAC which are involved in Pre-ART management are designated as “LAC Plus
Link ART centres (Figure.3):
To start with the ART centres were located at the district head quarters i.e., mainly at Medical College Hospitals or the District Hospital’s Medicine Department. Not all HIV positive cases where regularly taking services from the ART centres, because of the time and the money they have to spend to reach ART centres. Thus, NACO brought the concept of link ART centres. The link ART centres provides drug adherence counseling, dispense drugs to patients who are stable on ART, keep watch on the drug toxicity and treat minor OI of the patients. The links ART centres are located in taluk hospitals. Out of 175 taluks in Karnataka, 194 taluks have link ART centres. Out of 194 link ART centres 85 are upgraded as Link ART Plus centres .
PLHA ART Report (Cumulative):
The cumulative number of patients ever registered at ART centres in Karnataka till March 2015 were 2,65,836, ever started on ART were 1,74,844 and alive on ART were 1,17,469 . Fig: 4 shows PLHA registered with ART centres.
CLHA (Children living with HIV/AIDS) ART Report (cumulative):
The cumulative number of children ever registered at ART centre in Karnataka till February 2015 were 17007, ever started on ART were 9158 and alive on ART were 7274. Fig: 5 shows CLHA registered with ART centres.