Towards an HIV and Syphilis-free generations in India

Universal screening of HIV and Syphilis among pregnant women is now a policy being implemented by the Government of India.  Preeti Sudan, the newly appointed Health Secretary has directed the national health sector towards the urgent need to strengthen strategies for scaling-up testing services for HIV and Syphilis at both public and private health care centres in the country for early detection and treatment of all found positive.

The prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV programme  was launched in 2002 and gathered momentum and has scaled-up, in the year 2016-17 a total of 30 million pregnancies were estimated of which 95% were registered for ANC, of the registered pregnant women 56% and 30% have been provided with free counselling and testing for HIV and Syphilis respectively.

To fast track the dual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis by 2020, the Health Secretary is urging the National Health Mission (NHM) and the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to work together and with the Chief Secretaries of all States of the Union to roll out the Universal Screening of Pregnant Women for HIV and Syphilis. In her letter, she specifies that Principal Secretaries of Health and Urban Developments establish counselling and testing services as a priority action in all the Health Care Centres to universalize testing for HIV and Syphilis.

This directive is accompanied by a practical Action Plan for Universal screening of HIV and Syphilis in pregnant women to achieve the elimination of mother-to-child transmission in all States of the Union by 2020. The plan outlines technical roles and responsibilities of each agency the NACO and NHM as well as budgetary allocations. The plan calls for an accurate and timely reporting of data using available tools; a strong coordination mechanism between the State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) and the National Health Mission and for joint monthly monitoring teams to be established to review progress in different States towards the elimination of parent-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis.

Dr Bilali Camara, UNAIDS Country Director for India: “ The impact of such an initiative will be felt in Asia and around the world because a success of this magnitude will contribute to the global elimination effort and will transform the dream of HIV and Syphilis-free generations into a reality.”

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