The Parliament standing committee pulled up the National AIDS Control Operation (NACO) for serious lapses in the dispensation of HIV drugs. A few months ago hundreds of HIV+ patients receiving anti-HIV medicine were severely hit when government outlets ran out of supplies. Reports from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Manipur highlighted the various issues faced by HIV positive people in getting treatment. The panel also alleged that the Union Health Ministry wanted to hide the issue but many people living with HIV brought it to the committee’s notice. This is a serious lapse considering WHO recently deigned that 96% HIV transmission could be stopped by early treatment.
Improve the program
The House panel directed NACO to “take a more serious note of such lapses” and launch a probe to see how the supply interruption took place because such “gaps in supply only add to drug resistance apart from obvious inconvenience.” There are 14.86 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS registered in anti-retroviral treatment centres across the country, out of which only 486,173 are being given free antiretroviral therapy. The more expensive second line drugs are being given to 4,208 AIDS patients. The health ministry has been reluctant to provide the second line of treatment to more people Though the Indian AIDS prevention model has been lauded by everyone including the United Nations and UNAIDS the fact remains that there is a lot of scope for improvement.
Get rid of red tape
“Cost alone should not be the only criterion. Failure to procure the third line drugs will have future public health complications as people living with HIV could develop a very serious resistance to HIV, which could prove costly,” the panel said in its report tabled recently. The committee asked the health ministry to simplify the “economic and bureaucratic barriers” mentioned in the eligibility criterion for second line treatment .Patient groups have approached the Supreme Court as well for simplification of the procedure which eventually will lead to expansion of the free HIV treatment programme. “These barriers must not be created for patients who will need third line medicines. The AIDS control programme must start planning for antiretroviral therapy Centres of Excellence to take in patients who failed to the second line treatment,” it said. Recently, there was some reluctance from the health ministry to merge NACO with the NRHM.