KOCHI: If not handled with care, the state government’s move to integrate the highly successful 10-year-old Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), the programme for treating HIV patients, with the general health system might prove disastrous.
Once the integration happens, there are possibilities that many intricate confidential information of the patients will have to be disclosed.
Incidentally, the confidentiality factor was the key to the success rate of ART in the state, which could proudly push aside other states in its implementation.
Unlike other diseases, the HIV prevention programme is not included under the Health Department of the state, but is managed by the Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) which is directly under the Department of AIDS control, National Aids Control Organisation (NACO).
The HIV is the only disease which has a prevention programme outside the General Health system.
Study shows that there are about 25,000 HIV patients in the state of which 18,000 have registered with eight centres in the state and 9,000 are undergoing treatment.
“The patients require close monitoring. Even the slightest interruption in medication can make the whole effort go awry. Sadly, even after giving meticulous care, there are drop outs. The confidentiality cover might dissolve if the programme is not properly integrated with the general health system,” said a KSACS official on condition of anonymity.
There are strong apprehensions whether the integration process would in any way meddle with the welfare schemes of HIV patients. “Implementing it through various agencies of the government will force them to disclose the patients’ identity. But NACO, through an efficient screening system, gave away the benefits to the patients adhering to confidentiality guidelines,” the official said.After integration, the funding will be direct from the Centre to the state. The state will inturn release it to treatment centres via treasury, unlike the old system where NACO directly releases funds to treatment centres.
The lag being a major barrier in the effective implementation, the official pointed out that KSACS is yet to get the fund for the fourth phase. “Seventy five percent of the aid should be utilised before six months. If the money is sanctioned towards the end of this year, the projects will have to be implemented in a haste which can affect the quality of the programme.”
Above all, the frequently changing guidelines is also giving headaches. “The existing infrastructure is not suffice to meet these demands along with the changing guidelines,” said Dr Ajith Kumar, member, technical resource group of NACO.
KSACS joint director (Care and Support) Dr T V Velayudhan, assured that the integration would in no way affect the HIV patients. There will not be any change in the medicines and treatment, he said.