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Battling a scourge with minimal govt aid

Negative effect: State grants just one crore for a year-old scheme

EVERY year, around 70,000 children below the age of 15 are diagnosed with HIV infection in the country. But the funds allotted for their treatment and care are paltry.

Being much more susceptible and prone to opportunistic infection than the positive adults, and with many losing either one or both parents, few states have managed to set up a corpus for their welfare. On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Deccan Herald reviews the status of Karnataka in reaching out to these children.

The Karnataka Government launched a scheme for HIV-affected/ infected children (0-14 years) by annually sanctioning Rs one crore. Although the scheme was launched last year, the funds were released only recently to the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD), the implementing agency.

However, the neighbouring Tamil Nadu created a Rs five-crore corpus last year and set up a Trust to disburse the interest of the corpus to beneficiaries. But as the corpus has been able to address the needs of only 19 per cent of the children, the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society recently urged corporates and private philanthropists to contribute to the Trust via newspaper advertisements.

Unlike the corpus created by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka’s scheme is different, believes Troy Cunningham of Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, an NGO. “The Karnataka Government’s scheme ensures that Rs one crore is provided each year.

Besides providing education and nutritional support, the scheme will also give monetary assistance to a relative or a foster family taking care of affected/ infected children. Travel to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centre and medical cost beyond district facilities are also included,” he said.

Overlapping surveys
As many 3,475 patients are still on ART and 447 have died in Karnataka since 2004. Unfortunately, the number of children who have dropped out of ART or have not yet started ART is not known even to the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society and DWCD.

To solve this information lacuna, the National AIDS Control Organisation rolled out the CABA (children affected by AIDS) project in 10 districts across the country in September this year. In Karnataka, Bagalkot and Belgaum have been chosen for the project, owing to the high number of children registered at ART centres.

The project entails a need assessment of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and sensitisation training for officials from health, women and child development and members of the zilla panchayat and local NGOs about not only the problems faced by OVCs but also linking children to various government schemes.

The DWCD is also conducting a similar survey. Six of the 15 high-prevalence districts have recorded as many as 7,812 affected/ infected children, said Narmada Anand of DWCD.
With regard to the scheme taking so long to take off, Anand said each child had to be assessed before planning the yearly budget.

Each district is to get around Rs 20 lakh depending on the number of children needing assistance.

Later, the scheme would be implemented by village health and sanitation committee, which will annually revise or update the beneficiary list, she said.

HIV Cell in RGUHS
Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) along with Karnataka Health Promotion Trust has set up an HIV cell on the university premises. Apart from this, a six-month certificate programme in nursing for registered nurses is also on the anvil.

The cell will monitor the HIV medicine fellowship course, which is for a duration of one year. A fulltime fellowship will train medical professionals to adopt and practise inclusive and integrated model of HIV care and palliative care. Currently, the courses are being offered at Vivekananda Memorial Hospital, Saragur, and Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangalore. Around 10 government medical officers will join the course and will then be posted to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres and link the ART centres in the State as senior medical officers.

The HIV cell is also involved in collecting details of patients on ART from all medical colleges in the State and forwarding it to Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society / National AIDS Contol Organisation.

(Published in Deccan Herald on 30th November, 2010)

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