Volunteers of Women Coordination Committee pack condoms for distribution among prostitutes in the Sonagachi redlight area of Kolkata.Reuters file

There's a public health concern over the risk of HIV infections spreading with at least six states facing severe shortage of condoms distributed under the government's AIDS control programme.

In states such as Haryana, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, which have relatively high HIV prevalence, these shortages have been continuing for around eight months. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh also face a supply crisis, which according to sources originate from bureaucratic delays in procurement.

State AIDS Prevention and Control Society (SACS) and other bodies have been intimated by target intervention groups, who have sought an urgent supply of condoms.

The health secretary met senior officials from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) on Thursday after the matter was recently raised with the Union health ministry.

"The issue has been brought to my notice. We have a meeting again tomorrow where we will analyse the situation and take measures to address the problem," health secretary Lov Verma told The Times of India.

According to sources the shortage is because of red-tapism. "While HLL Lifecare is unable to keep up with the demand, negotiations with private players is a long drawn process," a source said.

Country programme manager at AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) India, Nochiketa Mohanty said, "Several target invention groups working in these states have written to us seeking supplies of condoms as there are shortages. We have reported the matter to the government in our recent meeting."

AHF is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organisation that provides advocacy and anti-retroviral medicines in 36 countries.

According to health activists working with HIV patients there is also a shortage of HIV testing kits as well as anti-retroviral medicines, mainly paediatric drugs across the country.

The shortages of condoms as well as anti-retroviral drugs and testing kits across many states is confirmed by another leading international group working with HIV/AIDS patients, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

India currently has the third largest population of HIV-infected people in the world, according to a UN estimate.

More than one-third of the country's 2.1 million HIV/AIDS patients in India are provided free treatment by India's AIDS control programme. Experts however say that with such shortages the country faces a rise in new infections apart from the risk of the increased prevalence of the disease.