A large number of people in India's northeast living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are struggling for survival. Hundreds are dying// with no access to treatment.
"People are dying regularly and suffering a lot, unable to access Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) because such medicines are very expensive," said Dipak Singh, president of the Manipur Network of Positive People (MNPP).
Two MNPP members died earlier this week allegedly due to lack of medication. "Hundreds have died with no access to treatment," Singh told IANS.
Although it is not a cure, ART is a combination of medicines that helps a person living with HIV to fight off infections and live a longer life.
Besides, ART also significantly impacts transmission by reducing the viral load concentration and minimising risk of transmission to their sexual partners.
A person living with HIV requires drugs worth about Rs.1,200-1,600 a month and the cost doubles if someone has to go for second line therapies depending on the nature of their immune system.
India accounts for about 5.2 million HIV-positive people, second only to South Africa. The northeast has been declared as one of the country's high-risk zones with close to 100,000 people infected with the virus.
The National AIDS Control Organisatrion (NACO), India's apex government agency to combat HIV/AIDS, admitted in a recent report that non-availability of adequate ART in the northeast was a matter of concern.
"Lack of availability of ART and lack of research keeping in line with issues relevant to the epidemic were identified as gaps in the programme (for preventing the spread of HIV)," said a recent NACO, AusAID, and UNAIDS study titled "Rapid Needs Assessment of HIV Programme Needs in Five Northeastern States of India".
"The demand for ART is bound to be high and needs to be addressed."
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