Travel sops to stem ART dropouts

Considering the high number of dropouts from the Anti-Retro Viral Therapy (ART) programme, the Karnataka State Aids Prevention Society (KSAPS) and the Department for Health and Family Welfare together have started a scheme to reimburse patients the travel amount spent to reach the ART centres.

The scheme, which was started in January, has proved successful in Bangalore, bringing down the number of dropouts by a considerable margin.

KSAPS regional co-ordinator Dr Sunil Kumar said, “A patient has to visit an ART centre once a month to obtain medicines and undergo medical checkups. We noticed, in many instances, that the patients were unable to afford even their singular monthly visit. Hence, we introduced the concept of reimbursing their travel expenses.”

The reimbursment varies for patients in rural and urban areas. While those in rural areas get paid 80 paise for every km they travel to reach the centre, patients in City are paid the regular bus fare. “For Bangaloreans, we reimburse the fare of a daily pass available with BMTC. If a patient is coming from an area that does not have bus services, then we reimburse the minimum auto fare,” he said.

Also, if the patient is a minor or a senior citizen and needs to be accompanied by somebody, then travel fares of the person accompanying are also reimbursed. He added, “The patients do not have to submit travel bills. It is only the first time that they are asked about their place of residence. Once we have the necessary information, travel fares are reimbursed from subsequent visits.”

The ART programme was initiated in 2004 and Bangalore has six ART centres. “There are  10,000 patients registered under ART in Bangalore, while the State has about 2.3 lakh patients being administered treatment under the scheme,” Sunil said.

He added that the State has 6,000 children in the ART programme.

“There are many poor patients and this scheme allows them to not forgo the programme just because they don’t have the money to travel. It is a scheme that benefits the patients and the State,” he said.

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