Mumbai: Kamathipura's HIV-positive sex workers to get antiretroviral therapy centre by December 1st
Kamathipura's HIV-positive sex workers to get local centre for antiretroviral therapy (ART) by December 1; centre to help curb dropout rates in HIV AIDS treatment
This World AIDS Day, Kamathipura, Mumbai's largest red light district, is going to get the gift of a local health centre for antiretroviral therapy (ART) that is vital for managing HIV AIDS. The centre will be started by the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS) to make it easier for the hundreds of sex workers there to seek this treatment.
This ART centre would also help in reducing the patient load on the JJ and Nair hospitals, where the sex workers have to go every month for medicine and treatment. As per the plan, the BMC-run Gaurav Eye Clinic in the area will be turned into the ART centre.
"Mostly by Dec 1, the ART centre would be ready for the sex workers in Kamathipura. Presently, around 300 sex workers are undergoing treatment at ART centres in Nair and JJ hospitals. After the construction of the centre, more number of people would come forward for regular treatment," said Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director, MDACS.
Struggle to convince
Every month, the HIV-positive women and their partners have to travel all the way to the two hospitals, which affects their daily business, thus discouraging them from continuing the treatment. The incomplete treatment has an effect on their health and also makes their customers vulnerable.
"It is a struggle to convince them to continue the treatment. These ART centres provide medicines for a month. Once that course gets over, they avoid going to the centres again as it affects their business. So, we requested MDACS to start a centre in a brothel in the area," said Ramdas Ovham from Asha Mahila Sangha, an NGO working for sex workers in Kamathipura.
And the struggle to continue the treatment is also real, take Kamathipura sex worker Subha Maitro's word for it. "We are daily wage earners, so we cannot afford to go to these hospitals for regular medicines and treatment as it is very time consuming. These centres are always overcrowded as patients across the city come there. Even though we want the treatment, we cannot follow through with it. But the start of this centre might give us some ease," she said.
This centre would also contribute to controlling the dropout rates of sex workers from the treatment. "HIV patients are given green cards, but often, these sex workers lose them. Then, we have to struggle to make one again. But with the start of this centre, all the sex workers and their partners would be registered with it. This data would help keep track of them. Even if they discontinue with the treatment, we would be able to trace them, which will help in controlling the dropout rate," said Ovham.
It will also assist in reducing the number of HIV-positive patients further; the number is already decreasing due to HIV awareness programs run by the government and NGOs. In Maharashtra itself, in the last 5 years, the number of HIV cases has gone down by 47 per cent. Dr Acharya said there has been a significant drop in HIV cases among sex workers due to growing awareness about safe sex.
No. of sex workers currently seeking ART in JJ and Nair hospitals
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