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The government Thursday told the Supreme Court that it will provide free the second line of treatment to all the HIV patients even if their initial treatment was done in private hospitals.

The National AIDS Control Organisation’s (NACO) decision is a significant departure from its earlier stand that the second line treatment at its expense would be made available only to those patients who were treated at the government’s hospital for the first line treatment.

‘The NACO commits to making the second line of treatment available to all those in need of it – whether they underwent first line of treatment in the government sector or private sector,’ the AIDS control organisation told the court.

After hearing the submission, the apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar said that it will make this decision of the NACO a part of the court’s directions.

The court was told that in the first phase, the universal access to the second line of treatment would be started at four centres, including JJ Hospital in Mumbai, Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine (GHTM), Tambaram (Chennai), Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, and Calcutta School of Tropical Medicines.

The first phase will start with immediate effect.

The court was told that HIV patients from any part of the country requiring the second line of treatment could be referred to these four centres.

The apex court was told this in the course of the hearing of a petition by NGOs Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust, Voluntary Health Association of Punjab and Common Cause.

The court was told that the pilot initiative would be studied over a period of three months to have an estimate of the number of additional people seeking the second line of treatment. This would enable the NACO to add capacity in a planned and phased manner.

The court was told that a status report would be submitted before it after three months along with the plan for the second phase, indicating additional centres where the second line of treatment will be available.

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