G.V. Prasada Sarma

VISAKHAPATNAM: Notwithstanding several reach out programmes being implemented by the government and non-governmental organisations some key support components are missing out of the help being extended to people living with HIV (PLHIV).

It’s possible to live longer with HIV/AIDS with nutritional support and a life compatible with the limitations that HIV/AIDS imposes. The death of 300 to 400 people in the district every year due to HIV/AIDS underlines the necessity of more support.

President of Visakha Network of Positive People J. Srinivasa Rao has been living with HIV/AIDS for the last 16 years. Leading the network of 4,410 people, he takes nutritional diet, does yoga and stays away from smoking and drinking. “I read books and think positive and concentrate on living without losing heart,” he says. Into the second line of Anti Retroviral Therapy for two years, he regrets that many are succumbing for lack of support. While HIV/AIDS takes its toll on the individual, it makes PLHIV vulnerable to several health problems.

Even as they take drugs under ART, many suffer from poor haemoglobin count. “If their blood is transfused, they can improve their condition,” says Mr. Srinivasa Rao. The four-year-old Visakha network, operating with the assistance of Chennai-based India Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS organises regular counselling at the drop-in centre of AP State AIDS Control Society. The network is also helping those living with HIV/AIDS come together and marry. So far 11 marriages have been performed, some of them among educated professionals.

Stigma still an obstacle

There is a proposal to give a pension of Rs.200 a month to PLHIV to help improve their nutritional needs. Many of the BPL families have white ration cards on which limited rice is given. AMG International provides monthly rations to 100 persons.

But PLHIV are still reluctant to go to the MRO office for the pension, says Additional DM&HO (AIDS and Leprosy) P. Rajendra Prasad. Hence it is proposed that the pension be given at the ART centres where they come regularly for medicines. The AP State AIDS Control Society is also urging the government to give the pensions at ART centres. Of the 3,600 undergoing ART, 233 are not regularly turning up for medicines. Also free blood transfusion is offered to PLHIV at all blood banks. But only 10 to 15 avail themselves of the offer a year, he admits.