AIDS Society of India (ASI) has urged National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) that comes under the Union Health Ministry and Family Welfare to resume the supply of HIV medicines at every centre and ensure a minimum of one-month dispensation of medicines to those stable on the therapy.
The plea has been made in the wake of the indefinite protest being staged by a group of HIV-positive persons outside NACO offices for the past 36 days (as on August 25) demanding to replenish the acute shortage of certain life-saving drugs.
Ever since the first HIV clinic was opened by ASI co-founder and president Dr Ishwar Gilada when the first case was diagnosed in India in 1986, India has come a long way in reducing the number of new HIV infections, as well as scaling up lifesaving (and lifelong) antiretroviral therapy to almost 16 lakh people.
In a statement issued in Pune, Dr Gilada has appealed to NACO to listen to the protestors who are alleging drug stockouts and acute shortage of certain anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.
“The gains made by India by providing antiretroviral therapy to 16 lakhs people can be lost if drug supplies are not stable. The central government’s 2018 guidelines recommend providing HIV medicines for 3 months to all those people who are stable on the therapy. Communities on an indefinite sit-in are demanding one-month supply of medicines, as they are reporting cases where people are getting supplies for 7-10 days or less, or some are being provided with paediatric doses or vice-versa. When consumers report gaps in best of services, it is prudent in the interest of public welfare and meeting India’s target of ending AIDS in the next 100 months (by 2030), to pay heed to these complaints and promptly redress them,” Dr Gilada said.
The doctor explained that there is scientific evidence to show that when a person is stable on antiretroviral therapy and virally suppressed, he or she will have the same life expectancy as an HIV-negative person of the same age in a similar context.
“Antiretroviral therapy prevents HIV-related illness and disability and saves lives. The evidence is now clear that people living with HIV with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV sexually,” Dr Gilada said.
“According to the UNAIDS and WHO, HIV treatment works best when taken as prescribed. Missing doses and stopping and re-starting treatment can lead to drug resistance, which can allow HIV to multiply and progress to disease,” he said.