Systemic issues and taboos cause hiccups
While HIV awareness programmes in Karnataka are successful, systemic issues like funding are causing problems in drug procurement for the disease, say medical officials in the field.
On the eve of World AIDS Day, Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society and Lions Club organised an awareness campaign for blood donation, and an award ceremony to commemorate the people who have worked for eradicating HIV.
Several Integrated Counting and Testing Centres (ICTC), ART (anti-retroviral therapy) centres and NGOs were felicitated in the ceremony. Dr. G S Sreenivas — the District Health and Family Welfare Officer was the chief guest, while Bengaluru DC Manjunath gave it a miss.
Initiatives taken by the state government and NGOs have helped bring down the HIV positivity rate to 0.24 percent in the state, and 0.22 percent in the district.
S. Raghavendra, Lions Club member, talked about the necessity of conducting such mass drives for blood donation. Talking to The Observer, he said:” “We collect blood from donors in our mobile campaigns, but that isn’t the only aim. While donors come in, we also test them for HIV, jaundice etc, and maintain the data. This is then shared with the necessary authorities for policy implementation. There are other programs we do; The platelets that are present in the donated blood are given free of cost to children with cancer for their treatment.”
Dr. Kala Yadhav Kishore, associate professor and HOD (Microbiology) from Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, said that the awareness programmes do work as the positivity rate has come down, but there is a lot more work to be done. She said: “Yes, definitely the awareness has increased, but there are pockets where the programme falls short.”
Bowring and Lady Curzon Medical College has an ICTC centre, and Yadhav was awarded for her work as the Chief Medical Officer.
Deccan Herald had reported on November 26th, that Karnataka’s drug procurement was running a year late. Asked about the impact of this, Dr. Sreenivas said that no such shortage was seen in the state, even during Covid-19. He said: “No, we even provided the medicines continuously for three- four months during the first and second wave as well.”
Dr Yadhav on the other hand, did confirm the shortage, citing administrative issues. She said: “Earlier, when we were under NACO alone, the funds used to come from foreign sources… we even used to get funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. So for the first 10-15 years, things ran pretty smoothly. However, now that things have been transferred to the state government, there have been hiccups.”
Jayamma, an NGO worker from Kengeri said: “While we do face some shortage, we don’t know the reason behind it. We have a door to door awareness campaign, so we cover rural areas as well… in such situations, there are times when there is a shortage of medicines to provide for HIV patients.”
Dr. Sreenivas said that while there is awareness around HIV, there is a lot less volunteering from the people’s side to help eradicate it. “Vulnerable groups like rural women consider HIV as a taboo and sex workers aren’t willing to step up. So our efforts often fall short because of that,” he said.