Ramya Kannan

CHENNAI: Will the State government’s recently introduced comprehensive master health check-up scheme be a step towards mainstreaming HIV-positive people? While welcoming the State’s move, members of positive networks are wondering if this will act as the much-needed bridge between ghettoisation and inclusion.

The Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, along with AIDS Prevention and Control Project, Voluntary Health Services and Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative, is implementing a comprehensive master health check-up scheme for the high-risk group. The core group consists of female sex workers, men having sex with men and transgenders and will cover about 85,000 people and their families in the State.

“Providing comprehensive care is a step towards reducing stigma and discrimination within the hospital set-up because positive people usually tend to go to sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics only. This is to say we care for them and to ensure that they get care across all departments,” says V.K. Subburaj, Principal Secretary, Health. The programme also anticipates upgrading of STI clinics within the government set-up and also training of staff in government hospitals, including nurses, counsellors, lab technicians and non-governmental organisation staff who will serve as a bridge between hospitals and positive persons. The services will be provided free and available under one roof. The drugs, thereafter, will be provided by the National AIDS Control Organisation, according to S.Vijayakumar, project director, TANSACS.

Rama Pandian, founder, Tamil Nadu Network of Positive Persons, brings up the issue of mainstreaming again. “No doubt this is a good initiative, and has received wide acceptance among the positive community. But if we have to go to the STI clinics again, it will lead to isolation. Bring it into the main hospital services.”