Desperate acts by Goa’s HIV+ve
Desperate acts by Goa’s HIV+ve
Patients Let Health Falter To Receive Financial Assistance From State
Preetu Nair | TNN
Panaji: The tragedy is not that they are dying, but that they want to die so that they can live. Already living desultory lives, shunned by society and suffering terribly, many HIV positive individuals are prepared to get sicker, and all for just a thousand rupees.
Since the state finance minister announced Rs 1,000 a month to those put on antiretroviral treatment (ART), HIV positive persons are looking at this financial bonanza as a way out of their financial straits.
“HIV positive people are increasingly asking to be put on ART without understanding the complications linked with it. This is happening with speculation that the compensation of Rs 1000 will be only given to those on ART,” says Sofia, of the NGO Rishta working with HIV patients in North Goa.
Mahesh Govekar of Zindagi, an NGO which runs a drop-in centre for HIV/AIDS patients in South Goa, said, “Many HIV persons are desperate to get financial help as it fills them with a sense of security to fight social criticism. There
are several doubts in the minds of the HIV positive persons about the scheme. But once we counsel them, they tend to understand.”
Forty-five-yearold Charles, an HIV positive individual, is praying and working to ensure that the next time he goes for a blood test, his CD 4 count shows less than 200 (very low immunity) and that he is immediately put on ART.
“I need the money to run my home. If being HIV positive and healthy means being denied the Rs 1000 benefit, then it is better to be ill. At least I can be of some help to my family,” said Charles.
“I am happy to be on ART,” said Sheena from Calangute. “This means that I can give a better life to my three children, one of them
suffering from HIV.”
Goa State Aid Control Society deputy director Elmira Pereira said, “Every patient put on ART would be given Rs 1000 at the ART centre.” About 510 patients currently on ART will benefit from the scheme, which has upset some of the 10,000 odd persons living with HIV/AIDS. Under the scheme a person gets financial assistance of Rs 1000 per month in the first year which will increase at the rate of 5% annually.
But what these patients don’t realize is that they are playing with their lives, as a CD count of below 200 can be dangerous. Once a person is started on ART this treatment will have to be continued with always.
Doctors say that an HIV positive individual has to follow a strict diet regime and lead a healthy life to maintain his health. “If their CD 4 count goes below 200, there is destruction of immune cells and the body’s ability to fight infections decreases. Such patients are more susceptible to opportunistic infections and need to be put on ART to improve their immunity,” said Dr N G Dubhashi, head, department of medicine, Goa Medical College.
SCHEME & ASSISTANCE
No clarity in monthly help for HIV victims
Panaji: There is still no clarity on the monthly assistance of Rs 1,000 for HIV positive people promised by the finance minister in his budget speech three months back.
Speculation is rife amongst persons living with HIV, sometimes forcing them
to do the unthinkable.
Even NGOs are ignorant about the scheme. “I have no idea about the scheme. But I hope it extends to all HIV positive persons, to ensure that they lead a healthy life with dignity,” said Jaffar Inamdar of Positive Life Foundation, a drop in centre for HIV positives in North Goa.
Fatima from Chicalim has striven hard to hide her HIV status. Life has been hard for her. Her husband and son died of AIDS five years back and she has a 65-year-old sick mother to take care of. The two of them subsist on about Rs 600 a month. But now she is eager to reveal her status ‘on paper’.
Though the scheme is yet to be introduced, she has already obtained an income certificate from the village panchayat. “When the panchayat asked me to cite reasons for seeking the certificate, I disclosed my HIV status. This is extra financial help,” said Fatima.
(Some names changed to protect identity)
June11,2008, The Times of India, Goa edition