Publication date: December 1, 2019

AHMEDABAD: Asha Patel (name changed), a coordinator for Gujarat state network of people living with HIV/AIDS (GSNP+) in Mehsana, visits the antiretroviral treatment (ART) centre in Mehsana and takes the names of the patients. She notes down the names of those who could not make it for regular treatment and visits their homes herself or gets other volunteers to do so.

“With proper medication, a person living with HIV can lead a normal life. As it’s seen in many cases, people stop their medication even when they know it’s not right,” says Patel. “The reasons for this vary from social stigma, to health issues including uneasiness, long travels and a lack of means for travel.”

As the theme of World AIDS Day 2019 is ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community,’ women in Mehsana have taken the lead to ensure that no community member goes without taking medication. The initiative started three years ago with local volunteers reaching out to the 3,600-odd persons in the district who are registered with ART centres.

“It created positive pressure for the community as we also dispel a lot of myths. We also reached out to sex workers to educate them about the perils of AIDS and how to prevent it. We are hopeful that it will help them lead healthy lives,” said another member of the group.

Dr Rajesh Gopal, additional project director, Gujarat State AIDS Control Society, said that this method was found to be more effective in ensuring continuing medication. “When a peer talks to a patient, the approach quells their fears and apprehensions. Due to the success of the model, it’s been replicated by other voluntary groups in Gujarat, especially in the northern districts,” he said.

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