Manjusha Rai (name changed) 35, has been HIV positive for nearly 14 years. She was diagnosed in 2001 and started with anti-retroviral (ART) therapy in 2005. Rai had a steady work in a garment factory. She was forced to quit her job this year.
“My trips to ART centre became too frequent because we’d never get a month’s supply of medicine. The frequent trips also meant missing work. I had to eventually quit my job,” said Rai.
Rai is among the more than 50,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Mumbai who are facing the shortage of HIV drugs across ART centres in Mumbai as well as the state.
Antiretroviral drugs, when taken in combination, can prevent the growth of the virus, slowing down its progress.
National AIDS Control programme under the Ministry of Health is responsible for buying HIV medicines and distributing them to the states which then provide treatment through their ART centres.
"Since it's been implemented for the first time, the funds don't reach the State Aids Control Society directly. This has resulted in delays and shortage of medicine. But, we have received the funds now and drugs have been bought," said Pravinsinh Pardeshi, project director, Maharashtra State Aids Control Society.
On Monday, more than 500 PLHIV, under the aegis of a Mumbai Aids Forum, forwarded their demands to the state health department as well the National Aids Control Organisation. "Over the last two months, the shortage of the first-line HIV medicines at ART centres in the state was acute. This month, the second-line HIV medicines are in short supply," said Eldred Tellis, spokesperson of the forum.
The forum has also demanded that all ART centres display the stock of drugs available.