HIV fears rise over condom shortage in Indian states
Sushmi Dey,TNN | Jan 30, 2015, 02.12 AM IST
At least six states are facing a severe shortage of condoms distributed under the government’s AIDS control programme.
NEW DELHI: At least six states are facing a severe shortage of condoms distributed under the government’s AIDS control programme, giving rise to a public health concern over the risk of HIV infections spreading.
These shortages have been continuing for around eight months in states such as Haryana, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, which have relatively high HIV prevalence. Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan also face a supply crisis, which, sources said, stemmed from bureaucratic delays in procurement.
Target intervention groups, which distribute condoms as part of public health programmes, have written to the State AIDS Prevention and Control Society (SACS) and other bodies, urgently seeking supplies, sources said.
The matter was recently raised with the Union health ministry, following which the health secretary met senior officials from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) on Thursday.
“The issue has been brought to my notice. We have a meeting again tomorrow where we will analyse the situation and take measures to address the problem,” health secretary Lov Verma told TOI.
Sources said the shortage is primarily caused by bureaucratic delays. “While HLL Lifecare is unable to keep up with the demand, negotiations with private players is a long drawn process,” a source said.
“Several target invention groups working in these states have written to us seeking supplies of condoms as there are shortages. We have reported the matter to the government in our recent meeting,” said Nochiketa Mohanty, country program manager at AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) India. AHF, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, provides anti-retroviral medicines and advocacy in 36 countries.
The crisis is not limited to condoms. There is also a shortage of HIV testing kits as well as anti-retroviral medicines, mainly pediatric drugs, across the country, health activists working with HIV patients informed.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, another leading international group working with HIV/AIDS patients, confirmed the shortages of condoms as well as anti-retroviral drugs and testing kits across many states.
These shortages assume significance because India continues to battle against the infection. The UN estimates that India currently has the third largest population of HIV infected people in the world.
India’s AIDS control programme provides free treatment to more than one-third of the country’s 2.1 million HIV/AIDS patients and is the largest in the world. But, with such shortages, the country faces the risk of not only increased prevalence of the disease but also a rise in new infections, experts say.