Making the world a better place for them

Stigma, discrimination and denial of rights – no one, other those living with HIV/AIDS can have a better understanding of those words.

To extend support to such individuals, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) launched the country’s first national AIDS helpline  number – 1097 on World AIDS Day (December 1) in
the Capital.

Though it’s an initiative at the national level, several state governments, in the last few years have made an effort to provide social protection to people living with HIV/AIDS. Apparently, sensitisation of common masses is important to make these schemes work, but the right to live a life with dignity and with total support is equally important.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, several initiatives have been taken over the years to provide social protection to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Like in Rajasthan, the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Yojana was modified to include all HIV widows from 18 years of age instead of 40 years as provisioned in the scheme for non-HIV widows. Even widows who had a male child above the age of 25 years were not given this benefit in the original scheme. This condition was withdrawn in the case of HIV widows, making them eligible to receive lifelong pension.

Similarly, amendments were made in Madhu Babu Pension Scheme, Odisha. The scheme meant for widows, was modified to include all PLHIV, irrespective of age, marital and economic status, caste and gender.

Giving PLHIV the right to get benefit from the Food and Nutrition Schmes, Odisha, in its Antyodaya Anna Yojana, which was originally meant only adults, include PLHIV in the state.

Since HIV patients need to travel frequently to access care and treatment services, transportation costs often create a barrier, in Rajasthan patients are allowed to avail 75 per cent concessions in bus transportation. This has helped PLHIV to reduce travelling costs to hospital or ART centre. Similar policy is adopted in Odisha. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu government launched in 2007 the free bus passes for PLHIV who were registered at the ART centres.

Children, who are at the receiving end, are also included under social schemes run by different states. Palanhar Yojana in Rajasthan was modified in 2010 to include all children from HIV households, irrespective of the HIV status of the child along with the other destitute children. For the orphaned and vulnerable children, Other Vulnerable Children Trust (OVCT) has been looking after the nutrition, education, economic, health care, protection and psychological needs of children living with HIV.

But these schemes fail at a certain level due to stigma and loss of confidentiality. The schemes cannot be disbursed without revealing the HIV status. Therefore, sensistisation of all concerned officers, which is in itself a herculean task, plays an important role. Ironically, if an officer is sensitised or interested to take the issue, there is frequent change in the cabinet, which proves to be a setback. Also, delay in physical and financial approval for advocacy events, protocols followed between ministries delays the implementation.

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