By Anuradha Mascarenhas
Workers make gathis as the city gears up to celebrate Gudi Padawa, which falls on TuesdayIN a move that will help the state extend its services to people living with HIV and maintain a record of the exact number of HIV positive persons, the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) has invited medical practitioners to join the public private partnership (PPP) model. MSACS will accord the status of Integrated Counselling and Training Centres (ICTC) to private maternity homes/hospitals that perform a minimum of 25 deliveries every month.
Owing to stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, most do not openly declare their status, Ramesh Devkar, project director, MSACS, said. Maharashtra, which has a population of 10.30 crore, has 4.5 lakh persons living with HIV.
As many as one lakh people were screened for AntiRetroviral Treatment (ART) and 60,000 are on medication presently.
Maharashtra also has the dubious distinction of being the second state in the country with the highest number of orphans and vulnerable children. There are 14,000 such children, Devkar said.
The MSACS director admitted at the state level consultative meet held in Pune on stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV that they had not been effective in creating an enabling environment where people could live fearlessly and declare their status.
"Initiatives like the public private partnership are being encouraged so that we can reach out to more people living with HIV. This will also help us in recording the exact number of patients who are on ART, Devkar said. Laboratory technicians will be given free training so that they can counsel people to undergo HIV tests. This will help the state to reach out to more people who are living with HIV and ensure services are provided to them, he added.
Presently there are 678 ICTCs in the state and so far 200 practitioners have registered under the scheme.
Guidelines that were released on Tuesday last to tackle stigma/discrimination have directed that institutions looking after children with HIV should be linked to HIV programmes being run by the state. They should be given guidance in terms of day-today functioning. "We are developing a crisis-response mechanism in every district and a task force team will be ready if there are any such `Outbreaks' of stigma or discrimination," Devkar said.
Source: The India Express