Drugs shortage in free antiretroviral treatment programs in India

09 September 2014
An HIV ribbon

HIV drug shortages in India over the past few months have meant that many people living with HIV (PLHIV) are unable to access antiretroviral treatment (ART) through government run distribution centres. Thousands of PLHIV rely on the free ART provided by India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), however they are facing drug shortfalls that are largely blamed on supply bottlenecks, late payments to pharmaceutical companies and Indian manufacturers boycotting the process. This has made unavailable three HIV medicines – two for treating children and one for adults.

India has the third largest number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world, and accounts for about forty percent of the PLHIV in Asia. Of the 2.1 million PLHIV in India, around 750,000 depend on the free distribution of drugs through government-run centres. Corruption and, dysfunctional supply chain mean that the drugs allocated for free distribution often do not reach those who need it. As a result, people in need of medication have been told to seek out their ART by other means. 

In a country where first line ART costs about 3,000 rupees (US$50) for one month’s supply, and one in three people are living on less than US$1.25 a day, buying drugs over the counter is simply not an option many can afford.  As such, the Delhi Network of Positive People, a trust that works with HIV/AIDS patients, is planning to file a lawsuit against the government over the shortage of the life-saving drugs in various states, to realize the free distribution ART again.

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