Demand that “specific assurances” of the government

While HIV patients undergoing anti-retroviral therapy (ART) have medicines for a few days, it is the absence of counsellors that is worrying the people most affected by the strike by members of the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society Contractual Employees Association. Saturday was the third day of the strike. Lab technicians, doctors, nurses, supervisors, pharmacists and drivers working as contractual staff for the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) IV gathered at Freedom Park on Friday urging the government to look into their concerns. These primarily include higher salaries based on their qualification and experience as well as continuation of the services of contract employees.

Health Minister U.T. Khader met the workers on Thursday and promised to look into their grievances. However, Lingesha M.Y., State secretary of the association, said the strike would not be called off until the government came forward with “specific assurances”. “The government has been inconsiderate to our demands for over a decade. Repeated memorandums and requests have gone in vain. Workers across the State will camp at night at the protest venue until our demands are met,” he said.

Impact of strike

Paramesh (name changed), who has been undergoing first line treatment for HIV at the ART centre in K.R. Hospital, Mysore, for the past five years, said, “Although hospital authorities are making arrangements to give tablets to patients, the absence of counsellors is a serious issue. The doctors not only treat us physiologically but also psychologically. The government needs to address this issue as early as possible as it is not possible to run the centre without them,” he said.

Vimala R. Patil, medical superintendent of K.C. General Hospital, which has an ART centre, confirmed that authorities had made alternate arrangements to provide tablets to HIV patients. “However, we may find it difficult to counsel patients if the strike continues,” she added.

Meanwhile, Health Minister U.T. Khader on Saturday appealed to contract workers to call off their strike in the interest of patients promising to approach the Central government to highlight their plight.

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