Communities Help Build Communities
The government of India has been implementing test and treat policy for HIV Programme in India wherein those who test positive for HIV are initiated on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) treatment irrespective of their CD4 count. This means, every month a couple of times people on ART have to travel to the ART Centre they are registered in for routine health check-up and stocking up their medication. Once a month visit to the hospital may seem ordinary to most of us but for people whose survival rests on their daily wage, it means loss of income for that day. It also means incurring additional expenses towards travel and food which further stretches their financial ability.
Some of the states sub-recipient partners under Vihaan program are currently advocating with the state government for the provision of free bus passes for People Living with HIV (PLHIV), supporting and enabling them to visit ART Centre every month to collect their medication with ease.
Nagpur CSC has registered 6832 PLHIV clients till September 2019. Out of which 1500 clients who visit the ART centre regularly to take their ART medicine are from the local vicinity. Some of the clients cannot afford to pay the local travel amount to reach to the ART centre resulting in poor adherence to treatment.
Nagpur CSC has six outreach workers who are themselves living with HIV. They are on ART medicine and travel a long distance to take their ART medicine. The Outreach Workers thought about what if local transport Nagpur Municipal Corporation could provide them free bus pass or at least some concession in the bus fare, it would help reduce their financial burden to some extent.
Immediately, Nagpur CSC (Vihaan program) Project coordinator and NMP+ team came together and visited Municipal Corporation (local bus authority) of Nagpur and submitted a free bus pass proposal for people living with HIV underlining the importance of support required and how this small help could contribute towards better HIV outcome for India. The local authority, after working out internally, accepted the proposal and provided local travel scheme for PLHIV, giving them all free bus passes. It was a significant advocacy initiative by the community for the community affected by HIV.
In the last year, more than 600 PLHIV have received free local bus pass ID cards which can be used for multiple times of travel to Visit ART centre in a month. Nagpur Vihaan CSC continues to work closely with the local authority in order to extend the scheme to more and more PLHIV. All this started with a simple concern and thoughtfulness from the Outreach Workers. It has now become an exemplary success story for other CSCs to follow in their respective states.
~ The writer of the blog is Balaji Bhagwan Ubarhande, Senior Technical Officer: Monitoring & Evaluation