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The early years of the response to HIV/AIDS in India

The first case of HIV infection in India was diagnosed among commercial sex workers in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in 1986. Soon after, a number of screening centres were established throughout the country. Initially the focus was on screening foreigners, especially foreign students. Gradually, the focus moved on to screening blood banks. By early 1987, efforts were made up to set up a national network of HIV screening centres in major urban areas.

A National AIDS Control Programme was launched in 1987 with the program activities covering surveillance, screening blood and blood products, and health education. In 1992 the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) was established. NACO carries out India's National AIDS Programme, which includes the formulation of policy, prevention and control programmes.

The same year that NACO was established, the Government launched a Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS prevention under the National AIDS Control Project. The Project established the administrative and technical basis for programme management and also set up State AIDS bodies in 25 states and 7 union territories. The Project was able to make a number of important improvements in HIV prevention such as improving blood safety.