Key anti-HIV drug unavailable at govt hospitals

Picture courtesy: John Crawford (Wikimedia Commons)

A key anti-retroviral therapy (ART) drug for HIV-positive people is unavailable in government hospitals in Bangalore.

The so-called third-line ART drug, which is used to treat patients after they have been administered the first and second lines to suppress the virus, is not supplied to the city’s government hospitals.

Chandrika, 33, an HIV-positive woman working with a Bangalore-based NGO that helps HIV-positive people, whose 16-year-old son also has the disease, told The SoftCopy she cannot afford to buy the drug for him from private hospitals.

“My son is in need of the third line of the ART, but it is not available in government hospitals and I cannot afford to get it from a private hospital as it is very expensive,” she said.

Stocks inadequate in the state

Dr. Nirmala, senior medical officer at Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, confirmed that the third-line ART drug is not available in government hospitals in the city.

She said ART is very important for HIV-positive patients but the third-line drug is very expensive – around Rs.36,000 for a single dose.

“Its unavailability at government hospitals makes it unaffordable for the poor people, compelling them to suffer at the hands of the disease,” she said.

There are 18 patients in Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital who require the third-line drug, and a few other patients have fourth-stage HIV, which is terminal.

Even stocks of the second-line ART drug are inadequate in the state. Nirmala said it is very hard to maintain stocks of the medicines because of the high demand for it.

According to Venkatesh, a medical counselor, five or six people are found to be HIV-positive every day at the government hospital where he works.

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