“Tamil Nadu is the first State that has taken efforts to provide services for transgenders”

A Central team from the National AIDS Control Organisation, New Delhi, which is in the State to evaluate the care, support and treatment programmes implemented by Tamil Nadu, has said that there are lessons here for the rest of the country to follow.

For instance, there is high praise for the targeted intervention programme undertaken for the transgender community, unlike in any other State in the country. Sanjeev Jain, technical expert, National Technical Support Unit, said, “Tamil Nadu is the first State that has taken efforts to provide services for transgenders. A welfare board for this community does not exist anywhere else in the country.”

Also, he remarked that 50 per cent of the high risk groups in the State have been linked with government services for care and continued support.

The programmes for targeted intervention groups that have been implemented in the State, some with the support of the non-governmental sector, are among the best in the country, Dr. Jain told The Hindu.

“All this should be converted to a learning site for the rest of the nation,” he added.

The broad categories that receive targeted intervention in Tamil Nadu are transgenders, female sex workers, men having sex with men, migrant workers, truckers and injecting drug users. Eighty-nine groups are being managed by TANSACS, in association with non-governmental organisations to take awareness, and care and support to these groups.

There are 43 centres providing anti-retroviral treatment for persons with HIV/AIDS in Tamil Nadu. About 90 Link ART centres have been started in government hospitals or block level primary health centres in rural and mofussil areas to take treatment closer to the people who require it. This includes 16 Link ART Plus Centres where testing and follow-up are also being done. Currently, about 58,000 people receive first line drugs and over 750, second line anti-retroviral treatment available in five centres.

Also, unique to Tamil Nadu is a project to provide free bus passes to people living with HIV so that they are able to travel to the ART Centre. They can travel twice a month to pick up drugs, which are also provided free of cost.

According to sources in TANSACS, efforts have also been initiated to bring private practitioners to report their cases to the State. While the identity of the patient can be concealed to preserve confidentiality, it is necessary to know the actual number of people who are being treated with ARTs in the private sector.

It is estimated that anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 private practitioners are helping persons with HIV.

Already, this programme has been initiated in two districts, and has worked well in Kanyakumari district, sources added. It will be enforced in all districts soon.