INDIA WILL not face stock-outs of antiretroviral medicines as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Naresh Goel, deputy director general, National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), told The Indian Express. At the conference of International Aids Society, underway till July 10, a concern was expressed, following a modelling exercise by World Health Orgnization (WHO) and UNAIDS, over 73 countries being at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicine.
“We will not face shortage as arrangements for drug procurement have been worked out for the next two years,” Dr Goel said.
“There are 14 lakh people on antiretroviral treatment across the country and measures were in place with our partners to ensure that they get medicine supply during the lockdown,” he said, adding that HIV patients were also provided with two to three months’ supply of drugs.
According to WHO and UNAIDS modelling exercise conducted in May, at least 24 countries have reported either critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in supply of these life-saving medicines. The survey predicted that a six-month disruption in access to ARVs could lead to doubling in the number of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.
In 2019, an estimated 8.3 million people were benefiting from ARVs in 24 countries now experiencing supply shortage. This represents about one-third (33 per cent) of all people under HIV treatment globally.
According to data released on Tuesday by UNAIDS and WHO, new HIV infections fell by 39 per cent between 2000 and 2019. Deaths related to HIV fell by 51 per cent over the same time period, and some 15 million lives were saved through the use of ARV therapy. However, progress towards global targets is stalling. Over the last two years, the annual number of new HIV infections has plateaued at 1.7 million and there was only a modest reduction in HIV-related deaths, from 7,30,000 in 2018 to 6,90,000 in 2019.
Despite steady advancement in scaling up treatment coverage – with more than 25 million people in need of ARVs receiving them in 2019 – key 2020 global targets will be missed, the WHO said. At the International Aids Society conference, WHO will highlight how global progress in reducing HIV-related deaths can be accelerated by stepping up support and services for populations disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, including young children. In 2019, there were an estimated 95,000 HIV-related deaths and 1,50,000 new infections among children. Only about half (53 per cent) of children in need of ARV therapy were receiving it.
NACO to bring in phased revised drug regimen for first-line HIV treatment
Tenofovir, lamuvidine and douletagravir (TLD) will now replace existing drugs as first-line HIV treatment. The NACO will bring in the revised drug regimen in a phased manner. Systematic reviews have shown the efficacy of douletagravir-based regimen, which is better tolerated by HIV patients. Initially, ARV regimen of drugs for first-line treatment was zidovudine lamuvidine and efivarenz (ZLE), while second choice was tenofovir lamuvidine efivarenz (TLE) “Each of the drugs, however, has its own side effects,” NACO officials said.
Chhattisgarh has already identified HIV patients to receive the new drug regimen while Maharashtra will get its supply next week.