Shortage of Life-Saving HIV Drugs In India
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli recently issued notice on a plea filed by the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a registered society, against shortage of antiretroviral drugs in the country.
The bench noted the petitioner’s submission that the tender for 2021-22, which was due in August 2021, was issued in December 2021 but same did not fructify and a fresh tender had to be issued in March 2022 by the authorities. The court issued notice to the authorities, returnable in two weeks.
The petition has sought the protection of Right to Health and Life of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) who face the risk of developing advanced HIV disease which is life threatening. The Petition drawn and filed by Advocate Astha Sharma submits that the cause of action arose “on account of systemic failures in the procurement system and the repeated shortage/stock out of the ARV drugs”.
It further alleges that the non-availability of the ARVs at the Anti Retro Viral Therapy (ART) Centres of the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) leads to interruptions in the ARV treatment of the PLHIVs, and thereby increases their chances of falling-ill “due to AIDS heightening their risk of death”. The same violates the right to health and life of the PLHIVs, argues the plea.
The petition further states that that the Central Medical Service Society (CMSS) is responsible for ensuring that the tendering for supply of medicines provided under various government programs is made in a timely manner. The CMSS and NACO therefore have to ensure that the bids for the ARV are made in time so as to ensure continuous supply of the ARVs, the plea contends
The petitioner has also submitted that since 2014, there have been several instances where members of Petitioner have suffered and failed in the ART adherence due to shortages, unavailability and stock-out of the ARVs at the ART Centres.
Since January 2022, ART centres in various states including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar have a stock out, according to the plea. In July several ART centres in Delhi reported stock-out of ARVs and at the same time stock out was seen in many other states, it adds.
“The Petitioners herein, continue to be aggrieved by the continued stock-out of life-saving ARVs, with no response from the concerned authorities to assuage their concerns, and to ensure that the short fall is met,” states the plea.
The petition also seeks directions to ensure that tendering of ARVs are completed annually in a timely manner, and a committee comprising of Respondents and Petitioners is set up for regular updates on tendering and procurement of ARVs and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS treatment.
Case Title: Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and Ors. vs Union of India and Ors. – WP (C) 686/2022