December 1, 2008 3:00:05 am
On World Aids Day, one high-risk group remains shunned by society due to stigma — injecting drug users (IDUs).
This has made the task of people like Abbas Parvaneh, who runs a rehabilitation centre at Pimpri for IDUs, tough.
It is a daily struggle for Parvaneh to make IDUs cope with oral substitution therapies.
So far only seven people have recovered from the therapy and a recent laboratory test shows that 15 IDUs were now infected with Hepatitis C, a disease that spreads more easily that HIV and can cause far more complications too.
People associated with the Pune City Action Plan have urged the government to urgently introduce the Needle Syringe Exchange Programme failing which the lives of IUDs could be in danger.
“There are 120 IDUs in Pune and 60 visit our centre daily at Pimpri,” says Parvaneh who is one of the coordinators of the Pune city action plan for this high-risk group.
Even as Pune city action plan group wants to highlight the problems of IDUs in the city, the Network of Maharashtra People with HIV (NMP+) has pointed out problems that HIV positive people face.
According to Manoj Pardeshi, General Secretary of the NMP+ , there is a great need for free bus passes for HIV positive people who need to travel frequently for anti retroviral treatment. Some of them are very old or too sick and many cannot afford the bus fare, says Pardeshi who has urged that free bus passes be provided to them.
Because, failure to get treatment eventually leads to resistance to frontline drugs.
Pardeshi also unhappy that the proposed link ART centres are not operational yet and people still need to travel great distances to avail themselves of treatment in urban areas.
The NMP+ has urged the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society to take the matter up with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation.
World Aids Day functions in the city are set to be subdued this year due to the terror attack in Mumbai.
World Aids Day: life-saving lessons
Injecting drug use (IDU) is an important cause of HIV transmission and for the first time, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has embarked on a pilot projects in two jails (Tihar and Arthur Road) in the country to sensitise prisoners about the use of oral substitution therapy. NACO Programme Officer (IDU) Dr Ravindra Rao told The Indian Express that there was an estimated two lakh injecting drug users in the country and at least seven per cent of them were infected with HIV. In fact according to the Lancet (November 15 issue) about three million people who inject drugs may be HIV positive worldwide
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