New Delhi, Dec 1 (PTI) On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Union minister Anupriya Patel today launched the National Strategic Plan 2017-24, aimed at eradicating HIV/AIDS by 2030 and said it is still a big challenge to trace and bring people under antiretroviral therapy (ART).Also Read - Russian President Vladimir Putin to Visit New Delhi on December 6 For 21st India-Russia Annual Summit

She also inaugurated the ‘SAMPARK’ mission aimed at tracing those who are HIV positive and are to be brought under ART services. Also Read - Highlights India vs New Zealand 3rd T20I Match : IND Win By 73 Runs, NZ Whitewashed 3-0

The Union Minister of State for Health said India has been able to protect more and more of its people from HIV infection and improved the quality of life of those infected by it, by creating an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect. Also Read - Highlights | India vs New Zealand 2nd T20I Match: IND Beat NZ By 7 Wickets, Clinch T20I Series

But, there still is a big challenge to trace those who are left to be followed up in their treatment and are to be brought under ART services, Patel said.

“The HIV epidemic continues to be heterogenic in India with varied HIV prevalence by location and population. Each state has a different epidemic dynamics,” she said at an event to mark the World AIDS Day organised by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and the health ministry.

“Thus there is a need to strategically prioritise our interventions. The vision of NACO, therefore, is that of ‘Paving the way for an AIDS-free India’ through attaining universal coverage of HIV prevention, treatment to care continumm of services that are effective, inclusive and equitable,” the minister said.

She said ‘Community Based Testing’ to take HIV testing closer to those in need, will help in fast-tracking identification of HIV positive people and linking them to the ART programme.

“Therefore, the next seven years are critical.

Investments made now will result in substantive gains towards ‘End of AIDS’,” Patel said, adding one of our major focus area is prevention of dual infection, that is mother to child transmission of HIV virus and syphilis.

Reiterating the current dispensation’s commitment to end the spread of HIV, she said the government’s political commitment of an all-inclusive AIDS response is proved by the fact that the long-awaited HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, Act, 2017 has been enacted.

“This landmark Act is people-centric, progressive in nature and brings in legal sanction to address the discrimination faced by people living with HIV at various settings,” the Union minister said.

Those affected with HIV are legally protected from any social, medical, educational, employment and financial discrimination, she said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.