AIDS contract workers' stir affects HIV+ patients

Over 500 contract workers from Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society Contractual Employees Association are on an indefinite strike from Friday demanding increase in their wages. They boycotted work at various ART (antiretroviral therapy) centres which affected HIV positive patients who visit for their check-up and collect drugs.

There are over 2,000 contractual employees working as counsellors, lab-technicians, doctors, staff nurse, ICTC (Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre) Supervisor, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), Admin., accounts assistants, data manager, pharmacist, outreach worker (ORW) and drivers at various ART centres in the State.  The members, in their memorandum, said National AIDS Control Programme IV will be launched in April which expects treatment for more people infected with HIV, but salary structure still remain low and unscientific.  

Most employees receive Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 per month. The members are demanding NACO to withdraw NACP-4 salary order and revise wages based on qualification and experience, besides regularisation of services.

With on-going agitation, many HIV positive patients who have visited ART centres at Indira Gandhi Hospital and Bowring and Lady Curzon hospital returned without collecting their respective drugs.  

According to one patient, none of HIV positive children received their drugs at Indira Gandhi Hospital the past two days.  She said since patients were not intimated of the protest, they visited the centre to collect their drugs but returned in vain.

However, KSAPS Project Director Manoj Kumar Tripathi said NACO was sensitive to their protest and have formed a committee to look into their demands.  

He said all ART centres are working fine as government doctors have been deputed to attend to patients.  Tripathi, however, said some tests which had to be done on HIV positive patients were not carried out  and those patients were asked to return later to undergo tests. 

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