The stipulation that HIV patients will have to mark their health status as ‘HIV +ve’ to get themselves enrolled in the priority/BPL category while applying for ration card came as heavy blow to them.
Unless the HIV patients reveal their status, they would not be able to avail themselves of the benefits of the BPL category.
For fear of stigma, most of the HIV patients do not want to reveal their condition. Currently, the Civil Supplies Department do not have a proper mechanism to accommodate HIV patients without disclosing their identity.
“If the clause that deprives HIV patients of their benefits is not amended, many of them would hesitate to apply for ration card,” pointed out representatives of Sneha Santhwanam, a Palakkad-based organisation working for HIV patients. Once their identity is revealed, their lives would become hell. There are widows among them, and many have daughters. It will not be easy to get them married off,” said a volunteer of the organisation on condition of anonymity.
Statistics available with the government shows that there are around 25,000 HIV patients in the State. So far, none of them is enlisted in the priority/BPL category.
Though Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob had assured every help to HIV patients, he failed to communicate how the issue would be dealt with. He had said,” I have got representation from them, and I have forwarded it to the Food Commissioner for immediate action. They truly deserve humanitarian consideration.”
In May 2014, a meeting attended by the Chief Minister, Health Minister and the Social Justice Minister had promised that every HIV patient would be given BPL ration card. But, in the process, the officials revealed the identity of the patients in some of the cards.
When it was pointed out, it was put on hold. Later, on fast track basis, the Chief Minister initiated steps to bring them under the BPL category.
“That was a heartening gesture from the Chief Minister. But, the issue does not end with that.
There is no smooth mechanism for the newly detected HIV patients to get themselves enrolled under the BPL category,” pointed out Dr Ajith Kumar, member of the technical resource group of the NACO, who is also dean at the Kerala Health University.
“As per the existing rules, the beneficiaries will have to approach the ration shops. Instead of that, a doctor can issue a certificate indicating that the patient is eligible to be enrolled under the priority category.
On the certificate, the doctor can mention the names of diseases that make a patient eligible for BPL ration card, and indicate that the patient is suffering from one of them (without mentioning the disease).
Or else, the cards could be send directly to a higher official (District Collector/District Civil Supplies Officer) who could verify the details. Then, maintaining confidentiality, they can send them to lower officers,” he suggested.
“Also, the applications could be distributed and then collected through Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART)centres,” he added.