For the thousands of people living with HIV-AIDS in and around Tiruchi, the treatment centre at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital is the sole place for discussing their health problems away from prying eyes. While this is the only place where they reveal their health status, the cramped and dingy quarters afford little privacy for patients to receive counselling.

No private interactions with doctors

The anti retroviral therapy (ART) centre receives around 3,000 patients per month who come for the regular dose of anti retroviral drugs that are necessary to ensure the CD4 count does not slip below the requisite level. Apart from Tiruchi, persons from Karur, Pudukottai and Perambalur and even from Namakkal, and Thanjavur come here for treatment. The drugs provided free of cost ensures thousands of patients add years to their life span. But the dingy centre has doctors, counsellors and patients sharing whatever little room is available. A queue inside the room ensures that no interactions with doctors are absolutely private.

“Though there are adequate counsellors here, there is no scope for counselling,” says the representative of an organisation for people living with HIV. “How can people open up and discuss medical and sexual problems when there are so many people sharing a space? Many issues like abortion and safe sex go undiscussed for want of space.

In a meeting organised recently by Operation Rainbow that supports HIV positive children, HIV positive were outraged at the lack of counselling before being put on ART treatment list. There are many questions and sensitive topics that are raised and patients are left befuddled on how to answer them. Women cannot raise even gynaecological problems here, without their problems being privy to everyone around, said a member who attended the meeting.

HIV positive people are dependent on the ART centres, being shunned by many hospitals on revealing the status. If the only treatment centre available to them affords no space or facility to discuss pertinent medical problems, they may not be addressed in turn impacting their health.

When contacted A.Karthikeyan, dean, said construction on new buildings would begin soon. Rs. 20 lakh has been sanctioned for the project, he added

Keywords: HIV counselling