The Supreme Court has sought the Centre’s response on a petition saying that there is a shortage of antiretroviral drugs for treating human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, patients in the country, Live Law reported on Tuesday.

The National AIDS Control Organisation is a central government agency that provides medicines, diagnostic kits and training to treat HIV patients. The virus, if untreated, causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

Since January, antiretroviral centres in several states including Maharashtra, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar and Delhi have been running out of stock.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli issued notice to the Union health ministry, National AIDS Control Organisation and others on September 12 to file their response in two weeks, reported PTI.

The petition, filed by the Network for People living with HIV/AIDS, alleges that the procurement of antiretroviral drugs for 2021-’22 that was due in August 2021 was issued in December. The Centre failed to procure the drugs even in December and a new bid to procure the drugs had to be issued in March by the authorities.

In December, the National AIDS Control Organisation had asked all states to procure certain drugs after it failed to choose a bidder and issue purchase orders. One of the crucial drugs that it failed to procure was dolutegravir, a relatively new medicine that reduces viral load rapidly.

Other HIV drugs are lopinavir and ritonavir that are used for first and second-line treatment.

The petition filed in the Supreme Court said that the Central Medical Services Society is responsible for ensuring that that medicines under various government programmes are procured in a timely manner, reported Live Law.

The Central Medical Service Society and the National AIDS Control Organisation have to ensure that the bids for the antiretroviral drugs are made in time to ensure uninterrupted supply.

The petition also said that non-availability of the antiretroviral drugs leads to interruptions in the treatment of HIV patients that increases their chances of falling ill with AIDS, thereby heightening their risk of death. This violates the right to health and life of the persons living with AIDS, the plea added.