The country is facing a severe shortage of drugs for AIDS patients at some of the anti-retroviral treatment centres, including at Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

According to sources, an essential HIV medicine Lopinavir/Ritonavir for infants and young children has gone out of stock as the sole company manufacturing the life-saving formulation is not participating in the bids which the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) invites. This is because of delay in payments.

The issue was first highlighted by an NGO — Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) — which pointed out “severe shortage and stock out” of various drugs meant for the people living with HIV at the Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) Centres at AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, among others.

Due to the shortage, HIV/AIDS patients were being given dosage for only 15 days as against the practice of 30 days. It said, as a result, patients have to incur travel expenses two or more times in a month to get their required dosage of medicine.

The NGO has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Health Minister J.P. Nadda in this regard. “We have also moved the Delhi High Court, which in turn has taken note of the situation, and sought the responses of the Centre and the Delhi government on the issue,” Paul Lhungdim, president of DNP+, told The Sunday Guardian. The next date of hearing is on 25 May.

Minister of state for health and family welfare Anupriya Patel, in a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, had earlier admitted that there was a shortage of HIV drugs.

“The government has taken note of a life saving HIV drug for children viz. Lopinavir syrup which has been withdrawn/stopped production by its sole manufacturer. The sole manufacturer with WHO GMP, M/s Cipla stopped production of syrup formulation without prior intimation to the NACO,” she said.

She, however, said that NACO has done an emergency procurement from a registered manufacturer M/s McNeil and Argus, adding “the drug has already been supplied and is available throughout the country”.

The syrup Lopinavir is required for treatment of HIV positive children with weight below 10 kg, and hence the number of children receiving this drug varies from time to time. As per February 2017 Monthly progress report from State AIDS Control Society (SACS), 651 children are getting this drug.

The government, this is to be noted, is providing ART treatment to HIV/AIDS Patients since 2004. National AIDS Control Organisation provides free treatment services through 528 ART Centers and 1,108 Link ART Centers. Currently, there are 10,23,640 People living with HIV (PLHIV) on ART, including 57230 children.

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