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HIV+ volunteers home deliver ART drugs in Ganjam

Since lockdown, 2,000 HIV+ persons have benefited from the initiative led by OSACS and NGOs

Eight HIV+ volunteers involved in the distribution of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) drugs to other HIV+ persons at their doorsteps in Odisha’s Ganjam district are unsung warriors of a different kind.

Since the start of lockdown in March, the eight volunteers have reached out to around 400 HIV+ persons in the Hinjli, Rangeilunda, Beguniapada, Polasara, Khallikote blocks of the district at regular intervals to provide ART drugs and psychological counselling.

Despite their diminished immunity, which renders them more vulnerable to COVID-19, they set out in the scorching sun, reaching others in need. Among them are two HIV+ widows aged 32 and 37 years, respectively. The youngest male in the group is 28 years old while the oldest is 52. They work with the social organisation ARUNA.

According to Soudamini Rath, secretary, ARUNA, the HIV+ volunteers are trained community-level workers. They help link other HIV+ persons to various services provided by the government. “ART drugs have to reach the needy on time. They are also counselled on precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19 infections,” Ms. Rath said.

‘We understand’

“As I am HIV+, as is my son, I understand the importance of timely availability of ART drugs to other infected persons. Our HIV+ status helps us see how they feel. Identities are protected to avoid social stigma,” said a woman HIV+ volunteer at the Hinjli block.

In order to deliver the ART drugs, volunteers regularly maintain contact over phone, and discreetly reach the homes of patients, or a secluded spot near their villages. Photos of the last page of ART books are shared over smartphones to adhere to prescriptions.

About 2,000 HIV+ persons in Ganjam have benefited from the initiative.

During the lockdown, the Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS), with the support of social organisations like ARUNA and Lepra Society, started disbursing ART drugs to HIV+ persons at their homes. Volunteers distributing ART drugs were issued special passes by the Chief District Medical Officers (CDMO).

Ganjam has highest number of HIV+ persons in Odisha, mostly among rural migrant workers.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 7:06:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hiv-volunteers-home-deliver-art-drugs-in-ganjam/article31716480.ece

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