Veena has been living with HIV for more than 15 years and works as a community educator in Bangalore, India. But she still remembers the day she learned of her HIV-positive status.“I was so angry and I cried. I was so fearful and I was suffering,” said Veena, who prefers to be known by her first name. In the early days of her diagnosis she had a lot of health issues and lost weight. She also experienced discrimination from her family.

After starting HIV treatment in 2004, the situation changed for the better. “This medicine is very good and I’m very happy,” Veena said. “My weight increased.”

Now Veena has good relations with her family and is busy with her job and watching her teenage daughter grow into a healthy and engaging adult.

Veena is one of the 1 million people with access to life-saving treatment in India. The Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Jagat Prakash Nadda, made the announcement on treatment at a World AIDS Day event on 1 December in New Delhi. He said, “I am proud to announce the attainment of the milestone of initiation of treatment of the millionth person with free antiretroviral medicines.”


Jagat Prakash Nadda, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, India speaking at World AIDS Day event. Photo courtesy of Press Information Bureau, Government of India.

The scale-up in treatment is due to the country’s network of facilities providing HIV services and to greater inclusiveness in India’s policy regarding the eligibility of treatment, which has allowed more people to access antiretroviral medicine. Mr Nadda also announced that India is working towards free treatment for all the estimated 2.1 million people living with HIV in the country.

UNAIDS has congratulated India for this significant achievement. “The Government of India and the community of people living with HIV are to be acknowledged on reaching this important milestone,” said Oussama Tawil, UNAIDS Country Director for India. “The continued participation of communities in all aspects of the AIDS response is critical as India aims to further expand the provision of treatment”, he added.

India has the third largest epidemic in the world. According to the national AIDS programme, annual AIDS-related deaths declined by 54% and new HIV infections dropped by 32% between 2007 and 2015. While acknowledging the overall decline in new HIV infections, Mr Nadda cautioned about the emergence of HIV in new areas. He emphasized the need to re-strategize and to expand the scope of services.

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