Various NGOs working for the welfare of PLHIV unanimously demanded authority concerned to address the issue of difficulties endured by people living with HIV (PLHIV) due to shortage of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) in stock at the earliest.
In a press conference held at Manipur Press Club on Monday, jointly organised by Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+), Care Foundation, Social Awareness Service Organisation (SASO), Kripa Society and Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE), the demand was addressed.
President MNP, Leimapokpam Deepak Kumar Singh said to the media that the State has recorded with the highest prevalence rate of PLHIV in India. According to the 2011 census report, 31,549 people are afflicted with HIV/AIDS, of which around 13,075 are taking ART medicine till October 2019.
He said the number of HIV/AIDS infected rate is six times higher in Manipur than that of other states of India. But the State is unable to provide ART to the afflicted people. Above this, those who are availing free ART medicines are also facing a shortage of medicine at least once or twice in a month due to a shortage of stock in the distribution centre. Such a distribution system will lead to an increase in resistance to medicine instead of improving the health condition, he suggested.
He said that the State might fail to achieve the UNAIDS target of HIV/AIDS elimination by 2030 at this rate and appealed the State government for immediate intervention. It has become a need of the hour to form a committee comprising members from the community, ART centre and Manipur State Control Society to regularly monitor the stock of ART in all centres across the State, he said.
He also highlighted the issue of outdated CD4 machine installed in both RIMS and JNIMS and said it is unreliable.
President CoNE, RK Nalinikanta said the government of Manipur, no doubt, has taken up various initiatives for the welfare of the PLHIV by initiating the free rollout of ART in the State since 2004 and the second-line ART from 2008, which is apparent.
However, the government while trying to highlight such achievements have side-lined the loopholes which are visible in the entire process, he said.
Nalinikanta also informed that out of the total number of PLHIV who are on ART which is 13,075, only around 1600 of them have been started monitoring for a viral load which is very less comparing with UNAIDS 90:90:90 target. The initiative taken up by the government needs to be scaled up, he said.
While recalling the State Grievance Redressal Committee Meeting (SGRC) held at Old Secretariat conference hall, chaired by the principal secretary of Health held October 12 last, he said the stock-out issue was discussed thoroughly and assured of addressing it. But nothing has been materialised as of now, he said.
The High Court of Manipur on August 29, 2019, has also directed all the ART centres in the State to maintain a buffer stock of ART medicines for at least three months but the directive has still not been adhered to by the authorities concerned, he lamented.
The representatives of the five NGOs also pointed out the need for the government to get all the stakeholders together and solve the issue of ART stock-out. According to the 90-90-90 campaign, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV should know their status; 90 per cent of all those who are diagnosed with HIV positive to be on sustained antiretroviral treatment (ART) and 90 per cent of those on ART having an undetectable viral load.