Travel expense reimbursement sees increase in arrival of HIV patients

The novel initiative of reimbursing the travel fare to HIV positive patients, has led to 35 per cent increase in the number of patients visiting the Anti-retro viral treatment (ART) centres for therapy, in Dakshina Kannada district.

The scheme was introduced in January 2013, by the Department of Health and Family Welfare and Karnataka State Aids Prevention Society (KSAPS).

Many patients discontinued ART treatment, as they could not afford the travel fare to the ART centres. This proved to be dangerous, as discontinuing or missing therapy could lead to resistance towards the drugs, making future therapy ineffective.

However, under the programme, HIV positive patients traveling from far off places, are reimbursed 80 paise per kilometre. Patients within city limits are reimbursed Rs 40 for their travel to the centre and back to their home. In case the patient is a senior citizen or a child below 10 years, then the travel fare of the person accompanying will also be paid.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, DK District AIDS Control Officer Dr Kishore Kumar said that around 1,600 patients are availing the benefits of the scheme since January.
"When we used to contact patients and ask them reasons for discontinuing their treatment, they used to say that they cannot afford travel fare. Many HIV positive people who come to Wenlock Hospital for treatment are from rural areas. However, after the introduction of the scheme, we can see a better response from patients. This scheme, is definitely a motivator," said Dr Kumar.

He also said that the patients need not submit travel bills. Whenever, they visit  the centre they have to show their address proof. An officer at the ART centre will calculate the kilometres from the patients house to the centre and reimburse the amount immediately.

Suresh, an HIV infected patient told Deccan Herald, that the scheme is very helpful to him. "I receive Rs 40 for visiting the centre. It may look like a small amount, but it is definitely a great help for poor people who travel from far-off places," he said.

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