Thursday, October 28, 2004


(from: lgbt-india)

Dear Friends,

The Government of Kerala on Wednesday launched its ambitious scheme of providing free anti-retroviral therapy to HIV-infected persons.

This is the first time in the country that a State Government is taking an initiative to launch free treatment for the HIV-infected, using its own funds.

The Government is investing Rs. 1.65 crores for buying the drugs, which will be made available to patients through the five Medical College Hospitals in the State.

Inaugurating the programme, the Health Minister, K. K. Ramachandran, said that steps would be taken to make the drugs available through district hospitals also, once the programme took off. He pointed out that despite being a highly literate society; the people here continue to discriminate against HIV-infected persons.

The anti-retroviral drugs will help those infected with HIV to lead near-normal lives for a long time, Mr. Ramachandran said.

Three-drug regimen

The therapy, which includes a three-drug regimen, will be handled by the General Medicine departments in medical colleges. Persons, who have confirmed their HIV positive status through tests at the Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centres, can register their names at the General Medicine department. Not all those who are HIV-infected require anti-retroviral therapy. Doctors can decide on therapy for a patient only after measuring the plasma viral load and CD4 lymphocyte count in blood.
The former is an indication of the magnitude of the viral load, while CD4 indicates the extent of damage that has been caused to the immune system.

Life-long treatment

According to the estimates of Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS), the number of those who require drugs in the State would come to around 1,500. The treatment costs for one person would come to nearly Rs. 1,000 a month.

As the treatment is a life-long affair and cannot be discontinued, patients will have to undergo counseling and awareness classes before the treatment is started. Patients would also be apprised of the possible side-effects of the drugs before beginning the treatment.

Those who spoke at the inaugural session included E. K. Bharat Bhushan, Principal Secretary (Health) and the Project Director, KSACS; K. Shailaja, Additional Director of Health Services, the president of Council of People living with HIV/AIDS, O. Joseph, among others. K. Mohan Kumar, MLA, presided.

  Comments from the  Human Rights Angle

Though government of India announced in 2003 December that it would provide ARV treatment to 100,000 children, mothers, and others who need it in six high-prevalence states beginning April 1, 2004, it has not been implemented
so far in other states except in Delhi.  It had begun administering treatment to small numbers of people living with AIDS in a few areas. We welcome this development.  In addition to ARV medicines, people with HIV/AIDS have a desperate need for other basic medical care, which our public health system has failed to provide to the marginalized (Eg: Sabira).  It is very important that people already facing discrimination, such as sex workers, children of sex workers, street children and tribal
populations, are not discriminated against in the administration of the anti retroviral program, and that testing is done and drugs provided in such a way that does not reveal to the rest of the community that a person is HIV-positive, thus exposing her or him to discrimination.  If the program is successful, more people will be tested, learn their status, and be treated:  more HIV-positive children may well be living in our communities, schools, health care facilities, and orphanages.Thus, it is
crucial that the Kerala government immediately put into place protections against discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS. (Courtesy to the Hindu and HRW)


T.C.14/1514,Beatrice Mansion
Thycaud Post, Thiruvananthapuram-695 014, Kerala, India.


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