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[afro-nets] Anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected launched in Kerala

  • Subject: [afro-nets] Anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected launched in Kerala
  • From: Sex Workers Forum Kerala <swfk@asianetindia.com>
  • Date: Tue, 26 Oct 2004 15:42:25 +0530

Anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected launched in Kerala

Dear Friends,

The Government of Kerala on Wednesday launched its ambitious
scheme of providing free anti-retroviral therapy to HIV-infected

This is the first time in the country that a State Government is
taking an initiative to launch free treatment for the HIV-
infected, using its own funds.

The Government is investing Rs. 1.65 crores for buying the
drugs, which will be made available to patients through the five
Medical College Hospitals in the State.

Inaugurating the programme, the Health Minister, K. K.
Ramachandran, said that steps would be taken to make the drugs
available through district hospitals also, once the programme
took off. He pointed out that despite being a highly literate
society; the people here continue to discriminate against HIV-
infected persons.

The anti-retroviral drugs will help those infected with HIV to
lead near-normal lives for a long time, Mr. Ramachandran said.

Three-drug regimen

The therapy, which includes a three-drug regimen, will be han-
dled by the General Medicine departments in medical colleges.
Persons, who have confirmed their HIV positive status through
tests at the Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres, can reg-
ister their names at the General Medicine department. Not all
those who are HIV-infected require anti-retroviral therapy. Doc-
tors can decide on therapy for a patient only after measuring
the plasma viral load and CD4 lymphocyte count in blood. The
former is an indication of the magnitude of the viral load,
while CD4 indicates the extent of damage that has been caused to
the immune system.

Life-long treatment

According to the estimates of Kerala State Aids Control Society
(KSACS), the number of those who require drugs in the State
would come to around 1,500. The treatment costs for one person
would come to nearly Rs. 1,000 a month.

As the treatment is a life-long affair and cannot be discontin-
ued, patients will have to undergo counselling and awareness
classes before the treatment is started. Patients would also be
apprised of the possible side-effects of the drugs before begin-
ning the treatment.

Those who spoke at the inaugural session included E. K. Bharat
Bhushan, Principal Secretary (Health) and the Project Director,
KSACS; K. Shailaja, Additional Director of Health Services, the
president of Council of People living with HIV/AIDS, O. Joseph,
among others. K. Mohan Kumar, MLA, presided.

Comments from the Human Rights Angle

Though government of India announced in 2003 December that it
would provide ARV treatment to 100,000 children, mothers, and
others who need it in six high-prevalence states beginning April
1, 2004, it has not been implemented so far in other states ex-
cept in Delhi. It had begun administering treatment to small
numbers of people living with AIDS in a few areas. We welcome
this development. In addition to ARV medicines, people with
HIV/AIDS have a desperate need for other basic medical care,
which our public health system has failed to provide to the mar-
ginalized (e.g.: Sabira). It is very important that people al-
ready facing discrimination, such as sex workers, children of
sex workers, street children and tribal populations, are not
discriminated against in the administration of the anti retrovi-
ral program, and that testing is done and drugs provided in such
a way that does not reveal to the rest of the community that a
person is HIV-positive, thus exposing her or him to discrimina-
tion. If the program is successful, more people will be tested,
learn their status, and be treated: more HIV-positive children
may well be living in our communities, schools, health care fa-
cilities, and orphanages. Thus, it is crucial that the Kerala
government immediately put into place protections against dis-
crimination for people living with HIV/AIDS. (Courtesy to the
Hindu and HRW).

Sex Worker's Forum Kerala
T.C.14/1514,Beatrice Mansion
Thycaud Post, Thiruvananthapuram-695 014, Kerala, India
Tel: +91-471-2324060, +91-9447389517