Much ahead of the lockdown, to ensure that HIV positive people do not miss out on required medicines, officials of Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society had dispensed a supply of anti-retroviral drugs for three months.
As many as 80,746 HIV positive people had been given the supply of ART drugs by mid-March. MSACS officials also tracked down another 14,000 such people who would have missed out on their drugs as they were unable to go to ART centres.
In the last two months, they were able to trace the 14,000 persons, MSACS officials told The Indian Express. Due to the Covid-19 situation and an increase in cases, the officials took permission from the National AIDS Control Organisation to ensure a multi-month dispensation of drugs. “The order was issued on March 12 and a supply of three months was given to the listed HIV positive persons across the state,” officials said.
There are 2.17 lakh people with HIV registered with MSACS. With more than 80,000 able to access the drugs at health facilities, officials said ART drugs were sent to 2,283 HIV positive people at their homes, while NGOs helped them reach out to 3,398 patients. “We were also able to help 514 people from other states and gave them ART drugs,” an official said.
As many as 14,000 patients were scheduled to come to ART centres and would have missed their doses. The MSACS team tracked them down and urged them to avail medicines from nearby healthcare facilities, where three-month packs were kept. In some cases, they involved NGOs to reach out to the patients.
Testing for HIV, however, has gone down, as OPDs at district hospitals have been limited, officials said. Outreach activities have also been affected and screening had dipped as well. For instance, at Pune District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit, officials said that conducting tests for suspected persons with HIV had gone down by 35 to 40 per cent. “However, our priority was to ensure that people living with HIV get their supply of medicines, and coordinated with NGO Vihaan to reach out to them,” officials said. Three modalities were adopted by the officials — to provide an adequate supply of drugs to HIV patients at ART centres, to keep the stock the health facility in urban, semi-urban and rural areas, and provide home delivery of medicines if the person was in a containment zone.
49-year-old Paresh (name changed), who had a supply of ART drugs till April, said he found Bindu Queer Rights Foundation helpful. “I stay at Talegaon Dabhade but take the ART drugs from the centre at Ulhasnagar as my doctor is posted there. Due to the lockdown, I was stopped by the police while on my way to Ulhasnagar and was even at the receiving end of a few disdainful stares. With all this negativity, I had no option but to return to Talegaon Dabhade and contact the foundation, who made arrangements for me to collect the supply from Kanhe Phata, which is not very far away,” he said.
Transgenders struggle to earn livelihood
Income sources have dried up for the transgender community. 31-year-old Payal, aka Rahul Khalate, who stays in the containment zone of Parvati, said another extension of the lockdown will exhaust her savings. There are at least 350 transgenders at Budhwar Peth, Dias Plot- Kashewadi, Lohiyanagar, Parvati, Kondhwa and Katraj. “We get supply of food grains, oil and sugar, but need money to buy vegetables and other basic necessities,” said 34-year-old Chingari, aka Prasad Thete from Kondhwa.
Bindumadhav Khire, founder of Bindu Queer Rights Foundation, said their volunteers had ensured there was a supply of food grains and ration to 152 transgenders. “However, now with the lockdown further extended, most members of the community are in containment zones and are unable to step out,” Khire added.
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