01 December 2010
In fact, hospitals insisting on an address or even a ration or PAN card has ensured that an alarming 50 per cent of all the patients visiting the hospital for HIV/AIDS treatment are being turned away as they do not have these documents in place. A chunk of them are from the transgender community.
The 1.2 lakh community of transgender has witnessed an alarming rise in HIV/AIDS infections – from 17 per cent in 2008 to 23 per cent as per latest statistics – but there have been no major initiatives from the government to control the rising numbers. Given that an estimated 80 per cent of the transgender community in AP is into sex work, the government instead of taking measures to contain the spread, is denying treatment for lack of documents.
On World AIDS Day, being observed on December 1, NGO groups say that though the HIV prevalence is high among the transgender group, only 2–5 per cent of them are availing treatment due to the high handed attitude of the authorities at these centres.
Activists suggest that since ART is given once a month, patients can be given a universal card through which they can avail treatment at any centre.
"Survival has always been an issue for transgenders and gays in the society. Asking for an identity proof from a population which has been fighting for an identity for several years is ridiculous," says G Krishna, transgender and gay rights activist associated with Suraksha Society, a community based organisation
At Gandhi Hospital, staffers manning the ART clinic said that it is mandatory that a patient submits an identity and address proof. "It could be a ration card, voter ID card or a PAN card. This is because we do not want to lose track of the patient keeping in mind the patient’s mobility," says the staffer. From those approaching Osmania and Gandhi for ART treatment, more than 50 per cent do not have an ID proof, admit officials.
"The total number of patients getting treatment at state hospitals is around 80,000 per year and we estimate an equal number are being turned away," said an official at a government hospital, adding that while the worst hit was the transgender community, the problem of ID proof was driving away other patients too.
When asked what happens to the patients who do not have an ID proof, officials say that they have to take consent from the AP State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) before starting the therapy but this usually does not happen.