Current Affairs 2017 - April

Government launches Test and Treat policy for HIV

Union Health Minister JP Nadda has launched the Test and Treat policy for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) patients. As per this new policy, anyone who is tested and found positive will get the necessary treatment free of cost. Anyone found positive will be provided with ART (Anti- Retroviral Therapy) irrespective of his CD count.  The scheme will be a centrally sponsored scheme. All men, women, adolescents and children who have been diagnosed positively can benefit under this new policy.

HIV destroys the CD4 T cells in the human body and weakens the immunity levels. A person who has CD4 cell count below 200 is considered to be at significant risk of developing serious illnesses. Before the announcement of this new policy, the government was providing free treatment to people with a count of 400 and below.

Government initiatives

The government is set to soon launch a National Strategic Plan for HIV for the next seven years, which will be significant for ending AIDS. Recently, the government also passed the long-pending HIV/AIDS Act. The HIV/AIDS Act has the key provisions such as the prohibition of discrimination, informed consent, non-disclosure of HIV status, anti-retroviral therapy and opportunistic infection management, protection of property of affected children, safe working environment and provision for the appointment of ombudsman in every state.

In India, around 21 lakh people are estimated to have HIV. Out of them, only about 14 lakh people have been identified yet. To identify the remaining cases, the government has revised national HIV testing guidelines. Recently, the treatment provided by about 1,600 ART and Link ART sites have crossed the 1 million people mark making the country the second in the world to have such large number of people on free lifelong treatment.

AIDS

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus. It is also known as human T-lymphotropic virus-III (HTLV-III), lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV), and AIDS-associated retrovirus (ARV). Transmission of HIV involves anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, an exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids.

 

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North Korea once again test-fires ballistic missile

North Korea has test-fired a ballistic missile defying global pressure and warnings from the United States and its main ally, China. The test was conducted from the Pukchang region present in the north of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. However, according to the US and South Korean officials, the test has failed and it is North Korea’s fourth successive unsuccessful missile test since March. The missile launched is expected to be a medium-range weapon known as a KN-17 and appears to have disintegrated within minutes of taking off.

Global Response

South Korea has said that the launch was a clear violation of UN resolutions and warned North Korea of tougher UN sanctions. Earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had warned North Korea of catastrophic consequences if it fails to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Japan has condemned the test as unacceptable.

Background

North Korea has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons-related tests at an unprecedented level since the beginning of this year. In February, it successfully launched a new intermediate-range ballistic missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. Similarly, it also successfully tested ballistic missiles on March 6. But since then it has caused a series of failed missile tests. The reasons behind the failed tests are largely unknown.

It is said that North Korea has made some progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles. Even North Korea’s sole major ally, China is not able to convince the former to abandon its missile and nuclear weapons development plans.

Implications

In a show of force, the United States could conduct new naval drills and deploy more ships and aircraft in the region. It has already sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula. Already, the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine has been docked in South Korea.

In addition, the US could also speed up its plans for new sanctions. However, such sanctions have done very little to prevent North Korea from pursuing its ballistic missiles and nuclear arms programme.

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