19 March 2012
By Ashok Pradhan
“I was shunned by everybody, including the hospital staff, due to my HIV status. But after the test last week, they have started touching me again,” said Hadibandhu Sahoo, who has been undergoing treatment for a broken spine. Sahoo had tested HIV positive in April 2011 at Swami Vivekanad National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research, an institute of the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment in Cuttack district.
Sahoo, who is from Ghantapada village in Angul district, used to work as a security guard in a biscuit manufacturing company in Gujarat‘s Bhuj. He had broken his spine during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and underwent a series of treatment at various health centres. His spine, however, refused to heal and he was finally admitted to the Vivekanad National Institute for treatment from April to June 2011, where he was diagnosed HIV positive.
“I was discharged from the hospital in August and started a paan shop in Talcher with the help of the local MLA. However, people who knew my HIV status would avoid the shop,” he said.
The 50–year–old wheelchair–bound man had to be admitted to Capital Hospital when he injured his back again recently after he slipped and fell while taking bath. In a fresh test conducted at the Integrated Counelling and Testing Centre (ICTC) at Capital Hospital, Sahoo was found to be HIV negative last week.
“The recent fall was a blessing in disguise for me. I have got a new lease of life after the fresh diagnosis. I had started cursing my life earlier,” said Sahoo, adding, “Now finally I am being treated as a normal person.”
When contacted, the hospitals defended the test reports. “We rely on the rapid test kits supplied by National AIDS Control Organisation, which has a margin of error,” said R N Mohanty, director in–charge of Vivekanad National Institute. Capital Hospital authorities said the ICTC test is a confirmatory test. “I can’t comment about test done elsewhere but ICTC tests are regarded confirmatory. We will, however, look into the matter if something may have gone wrong,” said Capital Hospital spokesperson Dr S N Swain.
Activists cautioned people to not get frustrated with rapid test kits. “Rapid test kits is not a confirmatory test. Confirmatory tests are done only at ICTCs,” said Pravasini Pradhan, president of Kalinga Network of Positive People.