Sex workers protest as ART centre runs out of medicines

Due to shortage of drugs given free at Sangli civil hospital,patients told to buy the medicines from chemists.

Written by Anuradha Mascharenhas | Pune | Published:November 19, 2013 4:13 am

With HIV positive patients being told to purchase medicines from chemists,members of the Vaishya Anyaya Mukti Parishad (VAMP) Plus,an organisation working for sex workers,have demanded immediate free treatment of the patients at the anti-retroviral treatment (ART) centre of the civil hospital at Sangli.

Kiran Deshmukh,president of VAMP Plus,told Newsline that medicines had not been dispensed from the ART centre for the last fortnight. “We are being told to purchase them from chemists,” she alleged.

Meena Seshu,who works for the welfare of the sex workers’ community and is the founder of Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha,has shot off mails to the National AIDS Control Organisation’s ART department and demanded immediate dispensation of free medicines.

“Patients who come from Sangli to Pune often complain that there are temporary shortage of drugs,” said Dr Vinay Kulkarni from NGO Prayas.

He pointed out that the drug,Stavudine,was being phased out and instead Tenofovir provided along with a combination of other drugs. However,if there is a shortage of these drugs,the patients are given an alternative set of medicine. “HIV positive patients should not develop resistance to the drugs due to such temporary shortage,” Kulkarni said.

At the Pimpri-Chinchwad ART centre,Dr Nitin Gaikwad admitted that there was a shortage of drugs for the paediatric age group. “We have at least 429 children on our list and at times drugs like Nevaripine and Lopanivir are not available,” said Gaikwad.

At Sassoon General Hospital,which caters to at least 11,000 patients,ART centre in-charge Dr D B Kadam said shortage of drugs were temporary but during such times patients should be referred to other centres.

Dr Manisha Ghate,in charge of the ART centre run by National AIDS Research Institute (NARI),said Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) officials had assured them of immediate supply of drugs.

According to Kadam,there is a likelihood of delay in the distribution of drugs. When contacted,MSACS officials said drugs were available.

National AIDS Control Organisation’s ART consultant Dr B B Rewari,too,pointed out that the drugs had not run out of stock. “In fact,we are planning to have more ART centres,taking their number to 600 in the next three years,” said Rewari.

At present,there are 7.1 lakh patients on anti-retroviral treatment while 6,700 are on second-line treatment. Rewari said there are 54 centres where second-line drugs were being dispensed.

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