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Apathy kills 18 HIV positive people in Kutch
Anil Nair in Ahmedabad | December 14, 2006 12:03 IST
Last Updated: December 14, 2006 12:04 IST
Eighteen HIV positive people lost their lives in the Kutch district of Gujarat not primarily due to the killer disease but mainly for want of medicines and lack of infrastructure in the state, according to AIDS activists.
Activists attribute the cause of disease to the government's apathy to better infrastructure as the state does not fall within the 'high prevalent zone' for AIDS-affected people.
"The patients died one by one in the last four months due to non-availability of both first and second line of drugs required for HIV positive people in Kutch district. The closest place is either Surat or Ahmedabad," Umashankar Pande, an AIDS activist from Kutch who is one of the NGO members taking up the matter with New Delhi.
Pande said the district-level distribution of required drugs and counselling centres was very poor and after much persuasion the Gujarat government has decided to finally open an Antro retro viral (counselling) centre at Rajkot.
"We got to know from our network that 18 HIV positive patients from Gandhidham and Anjar towns died as they could not procure the medicines on time. We have also intimated the state AIDS cell about it," Pande said.
HIV positive patients have to take first or second line of medication depending on their health condition. However, officials of the state AIDS cell say there is no shortage of required medicines, but admit there is a problem in the infrastructure required to deal with it.
"The problem is not of availability but in distribution of the required medicine for the first stage as it was only available through certain hospitals in Ahmedabad and Surat. Moreover, the government only gives free medicines up to the first level and patients in the second level have to buy their stock themselves," Dr D M Saxena of the state AIDS control society said.
Saxena said health officials were aware that patients from villages and small towns across Gujarat could not procure the crucial drugs immediately and had to travel several hundred kilometres to purchase a monthly stock.
"Gujarat is not considered a high prevalent state for the AIDS disease. Thus, there is a lack of infrastructure and we are not able to open medicine distribution outlets in all districts. The priority is on states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Mizoram," he said.
As per official estimates, there are nearly 1.3 lakh people affected by the AIDS but only 7,599 cases have been reported to the state AIDS cell till October this year. In spite of these figures and atleast 1,600 fresh cases emerging each year, the state AIDS cell gets medicines to disburse to around 3,700 patients annually.Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Baroda cities top with the most number of AIDS-affected people.