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The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has yielded to persistent pressure from HIV/AIDS NGOs and announced free testing (CD-4 count that determines the immunity level in an HIV positive person) for all patients.
In October last year NACO had halved the cost of the test, but it still costs Rs 250 each time a person is tested prior to starting Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART). The only exception was persons living below the poverty line and having yellow cards.
According to an intimation received by the State AIDS Control Societies of Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana, henceforth the test will be conducted free of cost for every HIV positive person once every six months. It will be repeated free earlier than six months if the patient has a doctorâ€™s prescription. Though this decision was taken on December 28, it was intimated today.
Confirming that the Chandigarh State AIDS Control Society had received the letter, its Director, Dr Sonia Trikha Khullar, said: â€œYes, we have received the letter. It is a very positive development that will help in early diagnosis and treatment, thereby helping reduce mortalityâ€.
The purpose behind unveiling the policy, said public health secretary Vijay Satbir Singh, is to provide a conducive atmosphere to those of the state governmentâ€™s employees who may be suffering from the disease. As few people disclose their HIV-positive status at the workplace, the government has no idea how many of its employees are affected.