Supply will become normal in a few days, says Manoj Kumar Tripathi, project director of Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS)

An acute shortage of a vital HIV drug, Efavirenz 600 mg, has hit patients in the last two months across the State, even as the Government on Tuesday announced the formation of a legislators’ forum to provide political thrust for the control of HIV/AIDS.

Efavirenz 600 mg went out of stock in some of Bangalore’s anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres on Tuesday.

This drug, alongside other medications, is used to treat HIV positive people who are also infected with tuberculosis (TB). Nearly 40 per cent of the over 16,000 new HIV cases detected in the State this year are reported to have TB as a co-infection.

This apart, the drug is vital for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

As many as 639 HIV positive women are availing themselves of ante-natal care at the 1,570 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTCs) in the State.

Several patients toldThe Hindu that said they were forced to return without the medicine or with just a few tablets from the ART centres here because of the shortage.

“I was lucky to get the tablets for a week at Victoria Hospital’s ART centre. A friend of mine who is taking treatment at KC General Hospital’s ART centre was sent back without any medicine as there was no stock,” said a patient.

Sources in the ICTCs said that as there was a limited stock of this drug, they were forced to ration the supply to patients. “As on Tuesday there is no stock in the ART centres in KC General Hospital and Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospitals here. The situation is the same across the State,” a counsellor said.

Another counsellor pointed out that although there was a limited stock at Victoria Hospital’s ART centre, a few patients referred from KC General Hospital to Victoria Hospital were given the tablets.

Ridiculing the formation of the legislators’ forum, Augustine C. Kaunds, president of Society for People’s Action for Development (SPAD), asked what was the use of such hyped programmes when the government was not able to meet the basic requirement of providing drugs to patients.

“Most HIV positive people will have a problem visiting the ART centres more than once in a month because of various reasons. For example, truck drivers whose work requires frequent travelling may even drop out and stop medication. This will lead to further complications in their health,” he said.

Manoj Kumar Tripathi, project director of Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS), said that the problem was being sorted out.

“There was a shortage till 10 days ago because of some legal problems in the tendering process. Our supply from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has resumed now, and if there is any shortage in some ART centres, it could be because of logistics problems,” he said.

He said that the counsellors had been asked to manage the situation with the available stock by rescheduling the dispensing duration.

“This is to ensure that no patient is denied medication. The supply will become normal in a few days,” Mr. Tripathi said.

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