TODAY -

Shortage of HIV medicines ails India
People’s indefinite sit-in continues since a month

Bobby Ramakant *

 Shortage of HIV medicines ails India
Shortage of HIV medicines ails India



The indefinite sit-in of HIV affected communities which began on 21st of July 2022 has continued for over a month to demand end of stockouts of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy across India, and minimum one-month dispensation of medicines to people living with HIV nationwide.

2018 guidelines of India’s AIDS programme (formally called the National AIDS Control Organization of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) states that people who are stable on HIV medicines should get medicine-supply of three months at every visit to the clinic.

But people with HIV are reporting from several states that they are only getting medicine supplies for seven to ten days, after which they are supposed to go back to the medicine dispensing centre for a re-fill. Antiretroviral therapy is a lifelong and lifesaving therapy that helps people with HIV stay virally suppressed, live a normal and healthy life, and also become undetectable and untransmittable (science has proven that when HIV virus becomes undetectable then it also becomes untransmittable). Without these medicines, HIV virus will not be suppressed.

More alarming is that some people with HIV are being given medicines which are supposed to be given to children (paediatric doses). Jai Prakash, former President of Delhi Network of People living with HIV (DNP Plus) is one such person who has to take 11 pills daily as he has been handed over paediatric doses.

“One of our friends from Mizoram has shared with me about a small boy who developed full body rashes after being given antiretroviral medicines which were for adults (and not children),” shared Loon Gangte of DNP Plus who has led HIV and hepatitis-related treatment access movement for almost two decades from the frontlines.

Networks of people living with HIV are reporting HIV medicine shortages in several states of India such as, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Assam, among others. There was shortage in Delhi too but now situation is improving, said Hari Shankar Singh of DNP Plus. Hari has been part of the indefinite sit-in since its beginning on 21st of July 2022 when CNS (Citizen News Service) had spoken to him too.

Right to protection of life is guaranteed by Indian constitution’s Article 21

“We are exercising our fundamental right to life as it is guaranteed by our country’s constitution in Article 21. So, we have the right to access lifesaving treatment because this antiretroviral therapy is our lifeline medicine,” asserts Cycy of DNP Plus.

Cycy rightly demands accountability as drug stockouts or shortages happen because “some concerned authority was not doing their job diligently or honestly.” India’s rollout of free antiretroviral therapy began in 2004. India has made commendable progress in expanding world’s second largest antiretroviral therapy rollout but there is no scope for complacency. For example, drug shortages will not serve anyone’s interest – it causes avoidable human suffering and pain, and harms progress of the government on its promise to end AIDS by 2030. We can only end AIDS if every person living with HIV can get uninterrupted supply of antiretroviral medicines, stays virally suppressed, and makes undetectable equals untransmittable a reality. This is not merely an #endAIDS goal but also a human rights imperative.

Loon Gangte said: “During past 17 years of India’s antiretroviral therapy rollout, this is the fourth time we are forced to sit-in to demand end of stockouts.” In the past 17 years, the supply chain issues should have got resolved as these essential medicines are lifesaving and treatment interruption is counter-productive and violation of human rights.

Previously, Loon Gangte and several other HIV activists had to stage a sit-in to demand end of medicine stockouts which lasted for one to six days at most, as authorities had swung into action, resolved problems and resumed supplies, thereby ending the sit-in. But this time the indefinite sit-in has entered day-32 (as on August 21, 2022), and still ongoing.

The government has been denying that there is any stockout. But then, why are people being handed over medicines for only 7-10 days, rightly questions Loon.

Hari Shankar Singh of DNP Plus said: “The National AIDS Control Organization or NACO is not accepting that there is a problem. They have done 7-8 rounds of meetings with us and given assurances that ‘they are trying’ and ‘only few people are affected’. But almost a lakh (100,000) people could be affected. Even if one person is not getting a month's supply of most effective antiretroviral therapy, then it is a problem and is not acceptable. Problems with tenders or supply chain had caused this issue, but the problem is not being addressed as fast as it should. There have been improvements since the stir began. For example, shortage of dolutegravir in Delhi is over now and one-month dispensation has commenced since few days. Paediatric medicines continue to be in short supply though.”

Is 17 years of managing India’s rollout of antiretroviral therapy programme not long enough to iron out supply chain related problems? “Those officers who are responsible for managing tender or other related tasks to ensure smooth supplies of essential medicines should work smartly, diligently and honestly,” said Hari. It is also high time to fix accountability.

Virus will not be suppressed by government's assurances but by medicines

Government officials are trying to persuade the activists to call off the stir. But activists including Loon Gangte are resolute and determined to continue the sit-in till minimum one-month supply of medicines becomes a reality for every person with HIV across the country. Ideally, the government should walk the talk and hand out three months of supply at every visit of those persons with HIV who are stable on the treatment, as per government's own guidelines.

“We are not sitting-in indefinitely to have meetings after meetings with officials of National AIDS Control Organization. We want them to work diligently and urgently, and resolve this issue instead. Unfortunately HIV in our blood will not get suppressed with official memos or government’s inventory or lists. HIV will get suppressed only with effective antiretroviral therapy. We want the medicines to be in the hand of people with HIV and not in warehouses. On one hand, the officials are denying the problem exists but on other hand, several of our people with HIV have ‘green books’ (document to keep a record of their treatment) which shows that they are getting supplies of few days only. If there is no shortage then why not give them a one-month supply?” rightly asks Loon Gangte. In fact, government should handout three months’ supply at every visit to the clinic (for people who are stable on the treatment as per the guidelines).

Loon added: “India takes pride that it supplies Indian generic antiretroviral therapy to most of the people on these medicines globally (over 90%). But in our own country why is there a shortage?”

“We are not fighting against any official or government but defending our lives as our life is at stake. Antiretroviral therapy is our lifeline. Our lives depend on these medicines. That is why we are asking for uninterrupted supplies of these lifesaving medicines nationwide,” said Loon.

Embarrassment of riches?

India is undoubtedly recognised as the pharmacy for the world as it supplies majority of essential medicines in low- and middle-income countries. "We do not lack money, medicine, human resource, or a national programme, but because someone has not done his or her job earnestly, there are stockouts that affect our lives. Stockouts or shortages of medicine is so avoidable if adequate attention was paid timely and sincerely at every step," said Loon.

"We are fighting for our lives. These medicines help us stay healthy and live a normal life. Our life depends on them," added Hari Shankar Singh.

The goal of all governments globally is to end AIDS by 2030. With 100 months remaining, we cannot deliver on the tall promise of ending AIDS unless every person with HIV is able to get effective and uninterrupted supply of lifesaving medicines, and remain virally suppressed. There is no scope to fail: stamping out stockouts is an urgent priority if we are to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.


* Bobby Ramakant, Citizen News Service – CNS, wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is the Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and a World Health Organization (WHO) Director General’s WNTD Awardee 2008.
Follow him on Twitter @CNS_Health
This article was posted on August 28, 2022.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Sangai Fest: Thang Ta :: Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Chiru Dance :: Gallery
  • Sports sees no gender, Sports has no gender
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • RFYC Naupang League in Mizoram
  • MPSC is going ahead of UPSC
  • Session on Meditation & Mental Health
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Challenges stacked up for Manipuri women
  • Antagonists of ST demand for Meiteis
  • Sangai Day 10: Closing #1 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 10: Crowd scene :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Will Thailand lead in antimicrobial resistance
  • Webninar @NEHU : India-Japan Relations
  • Keeping up with time :: Poem
  • World AIDS Day 2022 at Tamenglong
  • Doctor-Govt stalemate, public in peril
  • Progress of the Naga peace talk
  • Sangai Day 9: Dancing Drummers :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Aimol Dance :: Gallery
  • December Calendar for Year 2022 : Tools
  • COVID-19 Status 30 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • A flight of the Hornbill
  • Working with children as career
  • Stable situation essential for attracting tourist
  • Selling Manipur to outside world
  • Sangai Day 8: Shumang Leela :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Kom Dance :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Innocence :: Poem
  • Foreign Secy's Myanmar visit ... Naga peace
  • Cancellation of residential proof certs
  • Derelict teachers threat to govt schools
  • Many questions, but no answers
  • Sangai Day 8: Food Stall #1 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 7: Vaiphei Dance :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • 1st & 2nd session of 12th Manipur Assembly
  • Organic seed production- Issue & strategy #3
  • IFFI means to upscale to Manipuri Cinema
  • Continuous bid to save endangered ponies
  • Arguments over ST : Meiteis are indigenes
  • Sangai Day 6: Elowe: Dzuko Valley :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 5: Khunung Eshei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Alligator weed: Indigenous fodder resource
  • Two lives :: Poem
  • People don't actually care !!
  • The beauty in tea
  • Healthy response to Sangai Fest
  • Lessons from Japanese fans at WC
  • Sangai Day 5: Fashion parade :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Thangal Dance :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Masterclasses add value to 53rd IFFI at Goa
  • 7th Charuangc 2022 : Rongmei of Delhi-NCR
  • Miss India from Manipur
  • Startup Innovation Conclave 1.0
  • National Constitution Day at Lilong
  • Sangai Day 4: 3 Types Of Drums :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Chothe Dance :: Gallery
  • Involuntary Displacement in Manipur
  • Forgotten feature Film comes alive at IFFI
  • Will we protect medicines that protect us
  • God gives us our daily bread...
  • NPF consultative meeting at Zunheboto
  • Lapses in education laid bare by student
  • Adding a new flavour to War on Drugs
  • Sangai Day 3: Polo International :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Tangkhul Dance :: Gallery
  • 1st L. Keivom Memorial Day
  • Eina Khankhiba Natte : Movie Review
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Eight Meet of Astronomers concluded at MU
  • 'Manipuri films projecting Manipuri culture'
  • Condemn govts of Assam & Meghalaya
  • Corruption-free Manipur resolve under scrutiny
  • Asia at the World Cup
  • Sangai Day 2: Khutpak Chatkoi #1 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Tarao Dance :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Screening of Manipuri films at IFFI
  • Nagaland Govt has no economic policy: NPF
  • Organic seed production- Issue & strategy #2
  • Reinvent Northeast - Dimapur launched
  • Uneasy calm in northeast as border rows rage
  • FIFAWC and Sangai Festival : Splendid recipe
  • Ningol Chakkouba @ Pune :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Ningol Chakouba organized at Pune
  • Free mega health camp at Nagamapal
  • Outlaw glyphosate and its derivatives
  • Creators Meet of Tripura at Agartala
  • No respite from drug and tobacco threats
  • Manipur: Fountainhead of drugs ?
  • Sangai Day 1: Laihui Folk Music #1 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 1: Opening ceremony :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Copa Manipur at Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • South Asia's film market features Manipur
  • ST Demand: Decided by merits; not by poll
  • Ecotoxicology- needed to save living beings
  • 'Look East policy into Act East Policy'
  • Tourism promotional fest litmus test for state
  • Sangai & Pony, the twin face of Manipur
  • Tarpon Chaklen Katpa #2 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Festival 2022 :: Activities List
  • The Dream Kangleipak :: Book Review
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • 53rd IFFI featuring Manipuri Cinema kicks off
  • World Toilet Day 2022
  • Pulicat Lagoon, Flamingos' haven
  • Amid substance abuse, thrust on open gym
  • FIFA World Cup 2022
  • 1st CM's Sagol Kangjei C'ship :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Sangai Fest as a way to Look East Policy
  • 1st Chief Minister's Sagol Kangjei C'ship
  • Organic seed production- Issue & strategy #1
  • For PM Modi, G20 has come at the right time
  • Rock band Arogya releases latest single
  • Community Ningol Chakouba #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Out of the heart comes the issues of life
  • NE Startup Showcase @ Manipur Tech Hub
  • Immortal Gallows :: Poem
  • Workshop on Amrita Meditation at RGU ArP
  • Skin Pigmentation in Winter
  • Influx issue headache for all indigenes
  • Wanted: Visionary leaders :: Follies of past
  • The changing idioms of Manipuri theatre
  • COVID-19 Status 17 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • DFC Shillong launched with Model workshop
  • Antimicrobial resistance... to reverse progress
  • 2nd North East Olympic Games closes
  • Unending quota system & National excellence
  • Solar energy can help India achieve net-zero
  • Sangai Festival as launch pad for tourism
  • All eyes on Qatar
  • Manipur Journalist Awards #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Delegates for IFFI, Goa
  • Intellectual Class- First Line of Defense
  • Who are ST in true spirit of Constitution
  • Journalism is a public good ...
  • Vaccine transported through Drones in ArP
  • Mass tree felling depreciates existence...
  • ST demand : Let Delhi have the say
  • 5th Kwatha Festival #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • This Eleventh Edition of Sangai Festival
  • The garden of Kew #2
  • NE International Fashion Week 2022
  • Housing system for sow & piglets
  • Doctors grieving relentlessly, Govt silent
  • Law catching up after 21 years
  • Leima Jagoi @ Nongshaba #1 :: Gallery
  • Manipur Technology innovation Hub
  • North East BJP Karyakartas Sammelan
  • Supreme Court call for revisit of reservation
  • Rural Immersion Camp at West Kameng
  • World Diabetes Day 2022
  • Undeserving PDS rice beneficiaries
  • Leaving the doors wide open
  • On author, research & publication #3
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • MSAD : newly elected executives for 2022-23
  • 'Trust deficit' in Naga talks
  • Professor Bimola : A Life Fully Lived
  • Love's Twist :: Poem
  • Rani Gaidinliu Training Camp concluded
  • Job for all promise as unemployed rises
  • Presenting Manipur to the world
  • Manipur Fashion Extravaganza #3 :: Gallery
  • Seminar on Role of Women in Sports : Report
  • The great Asian Highway : Tokyo to Istanbul
  • Seminar : Reconstruction of Education
  • 4th National Lok Adalat for the year, 2022
  • Rishi Sunak .. is a pucca English Burra sahib
  • Ningol Chakkouba : Gift presents :: Gallery
  • Conference on Metallomics @ Manipur Univ
  • An awakening sprout in darkness :: Poem
  • Narration from a man who chase mountains
  • Jobs @ JCRE skill solutions, Thangmeiband
  • Masterclass on Social Photography kicks off
  • Training on mushroom cultivation
  • Probe into PMGSY project blot on graft-free
  • Opinion poll & quest for ST status
  • MANITEX @ Nilakuthi #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Consultation: Indigenous Rights in Manipur
  • Aphababu Oiragadi, Shokloidaba Oiragadi
  • Office Assistant @Horizon Studio, Gurgaon
  • Howrah Bridge- A bridge without nuts & bolts!
  • Pollution affects beauty
  • EV boost plan after failure of diesel-auto
  • Raining drugs and drug peddlers
  • Downloadable Manipuri Calendar for 2023
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Golden Jubilee Manipuri Cinema at IFFI Goa
  • Legal Services Day Ceremony
  • Art of stopping bandhs & blockades
  • Seminar on Role of Women in Sports
  • No time for debate, but action
  • Taking ST campaign to Ministers' doors
  • Camping @Shirui Lily Fest #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Aku Zeliang : Young Talent of the Year Award
  • 'Soul search' a must for media
  • Safe and sustainable tourism
  • Preserving environment as a Career Choice
  • Manipur in UN's drug cartel map...
  • Manipur on the tourism map ?
  • Hiyang Tannaba @ Loktak #3 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Application: AgriEntrepreneur across Manipur
  • Sangai Festival 2022 :: Program & Venues
  • Ningol Chakouba at Bengaluru
  • Nightingale Award: 3 nurses from Manipur
  • Uneasy over ambiguous inter-district boundary
  • Prescription from Dr Sapam Ranjan
  • Linthoi Chanambam- Judo Player :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • Will global family planning meet galvanise govt
  • Prohibition law vis-a-vis Manipur
  • Soil: Earth's skin is the environment cleaner
  • The future of students
  • Low conviction diluting object of POCSO
  • Shortage of teachers dating back to 2012
  • Indo-Naga Talks (2012-) :: News Timeline
  • Hari-Uthang Kang Chingba :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Nov : Govt of Manipur
  • The garden of Kew
  • Objectionable content have to be answered
  • Rising Sun Water Festival at Umiam Lake
  • Busting fake news a big challenge
  • Ningol on way to her mapam #2 :: Gallery
  • Kut Festival @ Churachandpur : Gallery
  • AMAND Pune: Cultural Program #2 : Gallery
  • Kangpat Khullen Primary School :: Gallery
  • Ningol Chakkouba Shopping #2 :: Gallery
  • Ningol on way to her mapam #1 :: Gallery
  • Okram Kumar : Archaeological researcher
  • Mera Houchongba @ Kangla #2 :: Gallery
  • Olympians & National awardees of Manipur
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2022 #4: Gallery
  • Rules of English Pronunciation : Download
  • Sub-Syllables in English : Book Download