By Gurinder Gulati
GANDHINAGAR, India, 5 February 2010 – Around 3,000 HIV positive people, including nearly 400 children attended the recent State level Convention organised by the Gujarat State Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GSNP+) on 31 January 2010.
The people belonging to 22 District Level Networks had gathered in the state capital to learn about various facilities and policies of the Government concerning positive persons.
The State Minister of Health, Dr Jai Narayan Vyas, the Chief Guest at the event was apprised about the situation of people living with HIV/AIDS and the ways Government can help them to lead a better life.
Commissioner, Health & FW and Project Director, Gujarat State AIDS Control Society and senior officials of NACO also attended the convention.
Speaking on the occasion, President of GSNP+, Ms Daxaben Patel thanked the Government of Gujarat for being pro-active and sensitive in providing facilities to the HIV positive like “free transport” for obtaining Anti Retrovial Treatment at the designated hospital, stipends and supplementary nutrition for positive children.
Patel also appreciated the government for providing cash support of Rs 500 to the positive people belonging to below poverty line category,
The GSNP+ president also complimented the Reliance Industries for starting a day care centre for HIV positive children and negotiating an insurance policy for positive persons.
The policy entails a benefit of Rs 30,000 for the medical treatment of HIV+ people at a nominal premium of Rs 100 per month. Reliance will be also paying full premium for the first 100 positive children.
The opportunity was also seized by some positive people to air the hardship being faced by them in their day-to-day life.
Mr Delchand Bhai, who is an HIV positive person from Surat said, “I earn Rs 5,000 every month. I have a family consisting of my wife, a son and a daughter to look after. I have been on ART for the last ten years. When I started the first line of ART ten years ago, there was no provision for ART at a Government hospital. Therefore, I had no other alternative but to depend upon “private” treatment"
" Currently I am on second line of ART, but as per NACO guidelines, I cannot avail treatment at a Government facility because my first line treatment was done at a private clinic. I have to spend my entire income on treatment. Therefore, it has become difficult for me to support my family. I have been forced to take out my son from the school as I am unable to pay his fee. I am also worried about the future of my elder daughter, who is to get married. In view of this, I appeal to the Government to change the policy and allow a large number of positive people, who are also in a dilemma like me, to avail the second line treatment at a Government hospital," added Bhai.
There were some encouraging examples also. Renuka, a 23 year old positive girl from Surat narrated her story of “healthy living.
She said, “My parents were positive and when I was born I also tested positive. Both my father and mother died soon after my birth. I have been brought up by my grand parents, who have always treated me with love and care. I have studied up to B.Com and am currently working as an Accountant with GSNP+. The only message I want to give is that an HIV +ve person can also lead a quality and purposeful life, if he/she follows a strict regimen of good nutrition, yoga and regular Anti Retroviral Treatment. Let’s refrain from addiction and practice safe sex behaviour”.
Ms Daxaben Patel, President, GSNP+ appealed to the Government to ensure second line treatment for all positive people, irrespective of the fact whether first line treatment was started at a Government hospital or private hospital. She also requested for payment of 50 percent insurance by the Government and provision of stipend for all children affected by HIV/AIDS whether they are positive or not.
After listening to the positive people, Dr Jai Narayan Vyas, Minister of Health & FW, Gujarat assured full support to the PLHAs. He said, “Earlier also whatever problems had been raised – like missing parents, single parent, school admission of positive children, I am happy to inform you that these have since been resolved.
Now, having attended this State level Convention, I have become aware of some other hardships Positive people are facing. I would like to assure you that the Gujarat Government will do everything possible to remove whatever bottlenecks are there”.
The State level Convention had been organized with support from UNICEF. Dr Yogendra Mathur, Chief of UNICEF Gujarat Office, assured continued support to GSNP+ in creating awareness about the situation of positive people and the need for giving them their rightful place in the society without any stigma and discrimination.