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Homearrow News and Events Year 2010 Stigma Attached to HIV in India

Stigma Attached to HIV in India

Times of India
01 December 2010
Mumbai, India

Nagpur resident Santosh’s rising blood pressure levels and weakening eyesight gave the first hint of a problem. "Local doctors discovered that my were kidneys failing and I was HIV–positive,’’ said the 35–year–old businessman about one of the saddest days of his life three years back.

But the worst was yet to come. A week before his kidney transplant in a local hospital, he was turned away. "Everything was on course for the transplant, but the minute I told them about my HIV status, the doctors said they would not be able to carry out the operation as it carried a high risk,’’ said Santosh.

They, however, provided him an address where he could try his luck: Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. "There is a stigma attached to HIV in India. Not many doctors and institutes are willing to invest in carrying out transplants for HIV–positive patients,’’ said Dr Madan Bahadur, the nephrologist taking care of Santosh.

In Santosh’s case, Dr Bahadur and a team of transplant surgeons stepped in to conduct the city’s second HIV–related transplant in September. "Santosh is doing well and it has been proved that the success rates of transplants in HIV patients is as good as success rates in non–HIV kidney transplant patients,’’ said Dr Bahadur.

In November 2009, a Central Railway employee became the first HIV–positive person to get a kidney transplant in Mumbai. Across the country, not more than 10 such patients would have got the life–saving transplants.

"There is a widespread stigma not only in society, but there is a bias within the medical community too,’’ said Dr J K Maniar from Jaslok Hospital. He said there were not more than 100 doctors who treat HIV patients across India.

"It is not lucrative, so many doctors opt out,’’ he said. The need for HIV management has never been so needed. As more HIV patients get access to anti–retroviral therapy, many can live longer, but may face related health hurdles in the form of cancers and organ failures.

"In the west, HIV patients have undergone kidney and liver transplants, but here patients are poor and may not have access to appropriate treatment,’’ said Dr Alaka Deshpande from the government’s JJ Hospital.

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