Mumbai : The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) has resumed one-month dispensation of HIV medicines nationwide following intervention by the Union ministry of health and family welfare.
A group of HIV-positive people led by Delhi Network of Positive People staged a 40 days dharna in Delhi protesting shortage of antiretroviral drugs at NACO centres pan India. The protestors supported by National Coalition of People Living with HIV (NCPI Plus) and others held dharna from July 21 to August 31, yielding swift action from the health ministry to resolve the issue.
The action taken by Union minister of health and family welfare Dr Mansukh Mandaviya and NACO officials over last weekend has not only resumed one-month dispensation of HIV medicines in every state of the country, but also set up a mechanism at NACO headquarters to avert such medicine-shortages in future.
As per the government order dated August 29, 2022, a ‘Coordination Room’ has been set up at NACO headquarters, where officials and people living with HIV will together work jointly for forecasting, and monitoring availability, supply chain and dispensing of HIV medicines, kits, and other commodities.
AIDS Society of India (ASI) has hailed the Union ministry of health and family welfare and NACO for its unprecedented leadership in resolving stockouts and shortages of few HIV medicines in some states of India.
“Medicine shortages are totally avoidable with meticulous planning. Forecasting to monitor supply chains so that essential HIV medicines, kits, and other commodities reach at every HIV care centre nationwide, is an essential cog-in-the-wheel to progress towards ending AIDS in the next 99 months (by 2030). This is no less important than resuming one-month uninterrupted supplies of HIV medicines nationwide. Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP Plus) and several other state networks and other professional associations like ASI had supported the call to end stockouts of essential medicines,” Dr Ishwar Gilada, president, ASI.
“As we know, there is ample scientific evidence to show that when a person is stable on lifesaving HIV medicines (formally called “antiretroviral therapy” which has to be taken lifelong) and remains virally suppressed, she/he/they will have the same life expectancy as an HIV-negative person of the same age in similar context. Antiretroviral therapy prevents HIV-related illness and disability and saves lives. Antiretroviral therapy also has a prevention benefit. The evidence is now clear that people living with HIV with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV sexually,” added Dr Gilada.
Now, once one-month dispensation of HIV medicines is stabilized nationwide, NACO should move towards walking the talk on its own 2018 guidelines which recommend providing HIV medicine supplies of three months to all those people who are stable on the therapy, he stated.
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 16 lakh people (1.6 million). Along with ensuring uninterrupted supplies of medicines to 16 lakhs, we also have to reach out to the remaining 7 lakh (24 lakh people with HIV in India as per estimates) and offer them test, medicines and ensure they remain virally suppressed, opined ASI president.
ASI experts offered their active engagement with the health ministry and NACO to ensure HIV programmes remain science- and evidence-based, and we are able to end AIDS by 2030.