"New AIDS programme not comprehensive"

Lack of funds forcing NACO to shrink its initiative

sonal

Sonal Matharu | May 17, 2011



The 175 NGO-run care and support centres for the people living with HIV/AIDS across the country will soon be shut down if the government has its way in the fourth phase of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) which is in its drafting stage.

A care and support centre is a link between people who have been tested positive for HIV and the anti-retrovial treatment (ART) centre where they get medicines once the CD4 count in the blood falls. These support centres are run partly by funding from the government’s National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) and the rest comes from the NGO’s own resources, says Anjali Gopalan of Naz Foundation India.

“HIV-positive patients are not given admission in hospitals, so if they are very ill they can come to these care centres where they are admitted and given treatment till they get better,” said P Kausalya from Positive Women’s Network, Chennai. The civil society member working with HIV-positive people met journalists on Tuesday to highlight the matters NACO is neglecting in the NACP-IV.

These centres prepare the patients to get ART and also counsel them. The government now plans to have only ART centres where the patients will only get their medicine dose and nothing else, informs Gopalan.

The government’s funding to the existing centres has been delayed by six months, sources said, and one centre each in Delhi and Hyderabad and two in Chennai have already closed down. The annual expenses of a centre with 10 to 15 bed capacity range between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 20 lakh.

“The hospitals do not admit HIV-positive patients saying that they are already on ART so they do not need hospitalisation. These care centres are not just about medicines, they also help patients who have side-effects with ART besides taking care of their nutritional needs,” said Gopalan. 

The civil society members expressed their displeasure that the activists, who work closely with people living with HIV, have not even been consulted for the NACP-IV drafting - unlike in the drafting of the NACP-III. 

Representatives of 90 NGOs met the NACO officials last week. The NACO has agreed to give voice to civil society’s concerns. It has also agreed to hold regional consultations as needs of different communities in different regions differ.

Also, children’s needs are totally neglected in the national AIDS programme. Usually, they are clubbed with women, says Sanghamitra Iyengar from Samraksha, Bangalore.

The members are worried that resources with NACO are constrained as a lot of international donors have pulled out. “The government contributes less than 14 percent to NACO. Most of NACO’s funding comes from international donors,” said Loon Gangte from Delhi Network of People living with HIV.

After the civil society raised questions over the non-transparent way of functioning by NACO, the department has agreed to share all the information on its website, including its mid-term review.

NACP is revised by the NACO every five years. The fourth phase of NACP will be launched in 2012. NACO officials did not respond to several calls made to get their viewpoint.

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