Medicines, test kit scarcity hits HIV therapy

Published: December 1, 2014

Sushmi Dey,TNN
Original Article:

NEW DELHI: Even as the world commemorates AIDS Day on Monday to continue its fight against HIV, many patients in India are struggling for their daily dose of medicine or for tests to monitor the status of the infection.

India has managed to bring down new HIV cases over the past five to six years by bringing in more patients under treatment and promoting use of condoms, mainly among the vulnerable population such as sex workers, drug addicts and transgenders. However, inconsistency in supplies and frequent stock outs of lifesaving HIV medicines in government owned centres in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai and the northeast have the potential to put India back in the danger zone, experts warn.

"Once a patient starts the therapy, medicine needs to be taken daily with proper adherence, or else the drugs quickly lose their effectiveness. Once this happens, HIV patients have to switch to a second line of treatment which is five times more expensive than first-line drugs, adding an additional burden on our healthcare system," said Daisy David, advocacy officer, World Vision India.

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia, said stigma, discrimination and restrictive laws continued to be barriers to accessing prevention, care and treatment services. "The HIV epidemic in our region is concentrated among populations most vulnerable to HIV: men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, sex workers, people in prisons and other closed settings. Although we have been successful in scaling up the health sector response for the vulnerable populations, more needs to be done. Less than 50% of these people know their HIV status," she said.

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