Positive people's networks have protested the deletion of 38 key provisions in the latest version of the HIV-AIDS Bill which is being discussed by the law ministry and health ministry.
The bill was drafted by the health ministry and the Lawyers' Collective in 2006 after discussions with individuals and organisations representing various concerned sections of society, including people living with HIV, sex workers and injecting drug users. It was then sent to the ministry of law and justice for vetting.
In the versions sent back by the ministry, many important provisions were missing. One of the provisions not included is to guarantee emergency health services for people with HIV. HIV patients are often denied treatment in hospitals despite being an emergency, hence the need for this special provision which requires a health official to be appointed, who will give orders within 24 hours if such a situation arises.
Another missing provision in the latest version of the bill is protecting property rights of a child of parents with HIV. Often such rights are unfairly snatched away by relatives.
(Source: Azera Rahman, www.iGovernment.in, October 22, 2009, AIDS-INDIA eFORUM)
The announcement by the India’s Parliamentary Forum on HIV and AIDS that pregnant mothers will be required to undergo an HIV test, should be viewed with concern. UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe is reported to have agreed with the forum's stand.
Approximately 80% of women living with HIV and AIDS in Nagaland come from families living below the poverty line. "Many of these women are too poor to even afford one square meal a day which is vital for them to gain energy to withstand the strong effects of their medications," according to the department of Women Development.
Patients suffering from AIDS need no longer worry about the heavy expenses of treatment. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) recently stated before the Bombay High Court that it would provide “free of cost appropriate” treatment to HIV-positive patients in the state of Maharashtra.
As numerous studies conclude that early initiation of antiretroviral therapy reduces illness and prolongs lives, government programmes have responded with doubts of the financial sustainability of a programme that starts treatment early. The tide might soon start changing.
A brief account in the AIDS INDIA egroup conveys the tragedy of people seeking care for AIDS. Jay Prakash describes his encounter with a 35-year-old man in a Delhi ART centre. The man had returned from his job abroad because of health problems, and then found out that he was positive. He was registered at a government ART centre in Delhi, but did not qualify for ART because his CD4 count was high. However, he was very weak and his weight was barely 37 kilos, when he came to a hospital for help. The hospital discharged him after some medical treatment. He was also turned away from various care homes that he approached for help, apparently because he did not qualify for admission under their guidelines.
The Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society used a woman's photographs in an AIDS awareness campaign without her consent! The newspaper report in The Times of India does not give more details on how exactly TANSACS obtained the photographs of the woman and her child but they apparently date back to when the child, now four years old, was an infant.
Those who are themselves HIV-positive are best suited to counselling and helping others in a similar situation. This is the verdict from many HIV-positive patients in Maharashtra. The National Aids Control Organisation wants to engage professional counsellors at the treatment and counselling centres attached to ART centres, but patients are against this change.
The lack of medical attention for prisoners in Indian jails is a major concern when they suffer from serious diseases, whether chronic conditions like heart ailments and diabetes or infections like tuberculosis which also happens to be an opportunistic infection in AIDS.
People identified as being in the high risk group for HIV/AIDS are getting a little more attention in Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra Pradesh State Aids Control Society (APSACS) has launched its ‘Shubham’ campaign to determine the HIV status of people at a higher risk of contracting the disease, reports the Express News Service on July 13, 2009.
The many accounts of positive people being denied healthcare must be recorded to remind us that things haven't changed much over the years.
The Indian Express (May 22, 2009) reports on a patient who approached the Uttar Pradesh government's Swaroop Rani Nehru Hospital and was initially refused treatment for an infection. When he was finally admitted, a sign was placed above his bed saying ‘HIV’. The words ‘HIV’ were removed after a protest from the Allahabad Network for People Living with HIV Positive, but was replaced with the words ‘ART’ and a red ribbon. To add insult to injury, the patient's attendants were asked to buy gloves and other material from the market and also to dress the wound themselves. The superintendent of the hospital is quoted as saying that she provided five medical kits for the treatment of the patient. Presumably this is to indicate that care was given. (SAATHII)
Healthcare professionals routinely refuse care to positive people, or charge them more for treatment. Part of this is certainly just plain prejudice. But some are also afraid of HIV infection. Are healthcare staff trained and equipped to prevent occupational exposure to blood borne infections?
Less than one in two sex workers in Goa knows how to reduce her risk of HIV infection through sex; only one in five has access to free condoms from NACO; almost one in three is forced to have sex without protection and the same proportion has no knowledge of HIV. These are some of the major findings of a survey of female sex workers, a group that is obviously very vulnerable to HIV infection because they may have difficulty convincing their clients to use condoms.
The Telegraph, Kolkata, reports on a visit by Marc Koska, the inventor of the non-reusable, "auto disable" syringe. AD syringes are designed for a single use. Once the plunger of the syringe is pressed, it locks to prevent reuse and, thus, unauthorised packaging or resale. The technology was developed specifically for use in developing countries where unsafe injection practices are widely reported. The AD cause is strengthened by a 2005 study that found 62% of injections in India unsafe because the syringes were reused.
The non-profit Initiative for Medicines, Access, & Knowledge (IMAK) is fighting to prevent the pharmaceutical company Abbott from patenting the anti-HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir. Abbott has filed for a patent for the drug before the Indian Patent Office but HIV activists say the claim is mendacious because there is little that is new in the drug.