Pressure from AIDS activists resumes ARV supply in UP

[हिंदी] Mounting pressure on India's AIDS control programme (formally called as National AIDS Control Organisation - NACO) from people living with HIV (PLHIV) who are staging a sit-in inside the NACO offices since Friday, 20 May 2011, yielded partial results when antiretroviral (ARV) drugs reached Gorakhpur and Allahabad antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres at 8:30am on Saturday, 21 May 2011. These ARV drugs have been relocated from Gujarat and Delhi, said Naresh Yadav, who leads the Uttar Pradesh Network of people living with HIV (UPNP+) and is participating in the demonstration and sit-in inside NACO offices in New Delhi. ARV supplies in Bihar might get restored by the evening of 21st May said Naresh Yadav.

The PLHIV have been staging a sit-in inside NACO offices since yesterday in a very peaceful and non-violent manner insisting on the core demands to resume ARV supplies in UP and Bihar ART centres where there were drug stock-outs, conduct an inquiry into this issue and ensure that this doesn't happen again.

Drugs stock-out is a very serious issue, said Naresh Yadav, as it can brew drug resistance and render the medicines ineffective forcing people to switch on to 2nd line ART regimens and so on. This is not only a public health issue but essentially a right to health and a social justice issue.

Naresh and other PLHIV networks have been reporting drug stock-outs since last two months to the authorities and only when their plea went unheard they were forced to stage a peaceful and non-violent sit-in, said Naresh Yadav.

The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) had called upon the Health Ministry and NACO to urgently address the issues of stock out of AIDS medicines in ART treatment centres in UP and Bihar. Life-saving AIDS drugs aren’t reaching people living with HIV (PLHIV) in desperate need. According to the local PLHIV networks, there have been several stock outs of AIDS medicines between February and May 2011 at the Allahabad and Gorakhpur ART centres in Uttar Pradesh and Gaya, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, Muzzafarpur, and Patna ART centres in Bihar. PLHIV networks estimate hundreds of PLHIVs may have been affected by the stock outs of AIDS medicines.

In December 2010, PLHIVs across the country reported that they were quickly  switched from Nevirapine (NVP) to Efavirenz (EFV) at their respective ART centres, without information. This was attributed to excess stocks of the medicine EFV, which NACO was keen to exhaust before they expired in March 2011.

What causes these drug stock outs and inconsistencies in the supply of medications meant to prolong the life of people living with HIV in India?

Problems in access are often related to inefficiencies such as poor planning, incorrect projections of local requirements, poor distribution and supply at treatment facilities, expiry of medicines as the stock that came in earliest first is not distributed first and corruption.

PLHIV networks are calling on the Health Ministry and NACO to immediately reform the pharmaceutical supply management system for essential medicines as it is an important element in treatment programmes such as TB and AIDS. Issues around ‘drug procurement and supply management’ need to be addressed without delay as it will prevent stock outs and expiry, helping in the process of distributing drugs and supplies to treatment facilities and ultimately to patients.

Let's hope that ARV drugs supply reach Bihar today evening (21 May) and adequate measures are taken by the government to ensure that drugs stock-out don't occur in future, for reasons of public health and social justice.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 

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