October 6, 2016 1:33:08 am
A 40-YEAR-OLD HIV positive woman in Sangli awaits an urgent surgery to treat hernia, but the local hospital has been postponing repeatedly. On Monday, when her abdominal pain became unbearable, NGO Sangram called up the hospital only to hear from a doctor that a surgery cannot be performed by them. “This isn’t just her case. It’s normal for HIV patients to be discriminated by government hospitals. We have to send them to Pune’s Sassoon Hospital every time a surgery is required,” said Meena Seshu, attached with the NGO.
The patient is on anti-retroviral treatment and was diagnosed with hernia eight years ago. With lack of funds, the NGO has been unable to refer her to a private doctor in Sangli.
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With the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, approved by the Union cabinet on Wednesday, the situation is about to change for better, hope social activists. According to the amendment, complaints of discrimination against HIV patients will now be probed in cases where they are denied health services, education, jobs or housing.
“Even NACO guidelines talk against discrimination. But that has hardly been followed. The hospitals do not directly say they are refusing because our patient is HIV infected, they give excuses, making it difficult to hold them accountable. Similar is the case with schools,” added Seshu.
NGO Sangram has 225 children under its umbrella, all in government schools. The NGO data shows that in cases where a patient’s confidentiality about medical condition is revealed, the school refuses admission. About 50 students have been admitted in private colleges since there is no government institute for higher education after much efforts.
In Mumbai, Goregaon-based Desire Society has 30 children at its shelter home. While four children — who are not HIV positive but have lost their parents to HIV — were given admission in a Goregaon West private convent school, about 21 children who were tested HIV positive had to be admitted in BMC-run schools.
“Some schools are cooperative. But this is an every-year problem we face with certain schools. They fear backlash from parents if they give admission to HIV child,” said Rekha Rane from the NGO.
According to Dr Shrikala Acharya, project director of Mumbai District Aids Control Society, the outright discrimination has reduced in last few years although few complaints keep coming to them.
“There are still misconceptions. In schools, if we counsel about the disease, the authority agrees to admit the child. Even in health facility, instances of private centres which would earlier send HIV patients to government hospitals have now reduced,” Acharya said.
She, however, added that the bill will be a game changer in changing mindset of people who continue to hold that HIV-affected patients are infectious.
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