CHENNAI: The Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is migrating to other sets of the population, including migrant workers in the state and not merely restricting itself to sex workers and truck drivers who are prone to contracting the disease, according to Dr Suniti Solomon, who was the first to detect India’s first HIV cases in Tamil Nadu.
Addressing a convention attended by several stakeholders, Solomon, who is also the managing director of Y R Gaitonde Center for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Research and Education, said, as per a survey conducted by her organization, the gay community in India is also among those most affected.
“We did a survey of the gay population from Amritsar to Coimbatore and found that most of them have HIV and of these 60 per cent are totally unaware of AIDS,” said Solomon. She added that people can live with AIDs for a long time as long as they take the first-line of drugs daily and without fail.
“If they fail to take the first-line of drugs, resistance for the drugs arise, which forces doctors to prescribe a second-line of cocktails and therapy which is more expensive,” she said.
Meanwhile, stakeholders objected to the words “as far as possible in providing medical treatment” in the long-pending HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill on the grounds that treatment to HIV patients should be given as of right. An ombudsman for the protection of the rights of those infected with HIV patients as well as those who are vulnerable with a high chance of contracting HIV is critical.
State Health Secretary, J Radhakrishnan vowed to keep the Parliamentary Standing Committee apprised of stakeholders’ demands so that they can be incorporated into the Bill to be passed in the Lok Sabha. The stakeholders also apprised the health secretary of the difficulties faced by people living with HIV and AIDs in accessing life-saving Antiretroviral Therapy Drugs (ART) in the state. The secretary denied that there was a shortage of ART drugs in Tamil Nadu. Radhakrishnan said that the State government is targeting ‘Zero new HIV infections’, ‘Zero new deaths’ and ‘Zero stigma’ from the disease in the state of Tamil Nadu.