Bhubaneswar: The treatment of HIV/AIDS in Odisha has taken a beating due to the ongoing lockdown as the life saving drugs issued by the government hospitals are finding it tough to reach the patients confined to their houses.
People living with HIV told Orissa POST that many of them have missed the drug schedules as their due dates were close to the lockdown period. According to the patients, the drugs are issued by the designated Anti-Retro-viral Therapy (ART) centres in government setups on a monthly basis.
“It has become a Herculean task now to get HIV drugs from government setups for people living in rural areas. Venturing out to hospitals at this time and coming back by withholding our health status is tough. There is little arrangement done by the government to ensure smooth supply of our drugs,” a person living with HIV said.
Most lamented that these drugs are not available in local chemist shops but only at designated government counters (ART centres). For example, in Ganjam alone there are two ART centres – one at Berhampur and other at Bhanjanagar. The patients, who used to visit the centre once a month, have been affected.
“There are around 4,000 live cases of HIV being served from the Berhmapur ART centre alone. As per the Union government order, such centres have been asked to ensure multi-month dispensation of the drugs to the patients but the challenge comes who will ensure such massive supply at doorsteps,” said Loknath Mishra, Project Director, ARUNA which works towards HIV rehabilitation and prevention in Ganjam.
He said that selected voluntary organisations and Network of People Living with HIV in several district who has volunteers from the community itself have now been roped in to disburse the medicines to the people to ensure they do not miss the drugs.
The network, however, claims they are least supported by the government to do their job. “A large number of people in Koraput and Nabarangpur are now missing the treatment cycle due to government apathy. Many of us who are patients of HIV are distributing the drugs. But to how many we can reach. The government is even least bothered to issue lockdown passes for us,” said one office bearer from the Network of People Living with HIV in Koraput (NPLHK).
According to the treatment regime, section of people with 90 per cent and more adherence to the disease are given drugs for three months while unstable cases are given drugs for two months. Others, meanwhile, make trips to the ART centres for their monthly dose of the drugs. According to treatment norms, the patients living with HIV should not miss a single day of using the drug.
The whole HIV treatment cycle of the patients is also hit because of the associated stigma related to the disease. Since many people living with HIV cannot explain their trauma in front of village setups and other areas they continue to suffer in silence.
Manish Kumar, OP