Linking Aadhaar may lead to rise in HIV treatment dropouts: activists

Linking Aadhaar may lead to rise in HIV treatment dropouts: activists

Naco officials believe doing so helps them track those discontinuing medicines

Linking Aadhaar may lead to rise in HIV treatment dropouts: activists

Around 16% of the three lakh HIV-affected people in the state have dropped out of the life-saving treatment provided by the government.

Health activists fear that linking of the treatment with patients' Aadhaar numbers will lead to an increase in these numbers, while officials from the disease control organisation believe that the unique identity number will help track the dropouts.

According to the report submitted by ART (Anti Retroviral Treatment) centres across Karnataka to the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco), since 2004, Karnataka has witnessed 80,000 patients die and more than 50,000 dropping out of ART, the treatment in which daily dose of medicine protects them from infections recurring.

Many of those affected by HIV in the city fear that their identity will be revealed due to linking of Aadhaar to ART.

"Around 15 of us have stopped taking the treatment in the city," said Sandhya (name changed), an AIDS patient.

Earlier, they used to take treatment by providing an address proof. Linking Aadhaar will lead to the revelation of other details of the patient, which will, in turn, lead to a breach of confidentiality of their disease.

"Aadhaar does not reveal their identity. It is a wrong conception. It will help us track people who drop out of ART centres due to various reasons," said Dr Ravi Kumar, regional coordinator of the care, support and treatment division of Naco.

He said there are multiple reasons for patients drop out. Many migrate from one place to another. Some patients turn us away because of the stigma, while many get better with the treatment and stop it, Kumar said.

He said the government had not denied treatment to patients even when Aadhaar has not been linked to the treatment.

Dr Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor, said if Aadhaar is mandatory, many patients will drop out due to the fear of stigma. This will lead to a major public health issue.