Activists Claim India’s Free HIV/AIDS Program Is In ‘Shambles’

Thursday, February 12, 2015

India has run out of critical supplies under its state-run HIV/AIDS program, activists say, leaving tens of thousands of infected patients without access to life-saving drugs.

An HIV support group, in a check conducted earlier this month, said it found that out of nine government-run treatment centers in New Delhi, at least five had no stock of antiretroviral drugs such as World Health Organization-prescribed NVP. Most of these centers had no or inadequate tools to test infection, such as Viral Load and Dried-Blood-Spot kits, which are widely used to ascertain the severity of HIV in the bloodstream.

In a separate check, the same group claimed that, in awareness camps run for drug users in the capital, program administrators had difficulties obtaining clean syringes. Sealed, disposable syringes are sold at government-run camps, activists say, to minimize risk of infection among drug users.

The supply shortages aren’t restricted to Delhi, activist groups say.

Late last year, another support group said it found that, of the two government-run treatment centers in the northern city of Varanasi, neither had condoms that are typically handed out free of charge to infected patients or high-risk groups such as drug users, sex workers and pregnant mothers.

“The whole government program is in shambles,” said Vikas Ahuja, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People, the group that ran the checks in New Delhi.

India set up NACO, or the National AIDS Control Organisation, in 1992 to help fight HIV in a country where tens of thousands of people die of AIDS every year. Through its antiretroviral therapy centers, of which there are more than 400 now, NACO tested and treated HIV-infected patients free of cost, making life-saving drugs available to the poor.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (link opens in a new window)

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