- TS John
The Challenge of Living with HIV/AIDS Amidst the Pandemic
According to the UNAIDS, approximately 2.3 million people in India are affected by HIV/AIDS. If the physical, emotional, and medical challenges were not enough they also face very harsh stigmatism as the result of their condition. They can be shunned by their communities, their neighbors and often even their own families if people come to know of they are HIV-positive.
India's strict lockdown during the pandemic caused many logistical problems throughout the country. One that came to light to South Asia Access (SAA) was the challenges faced by the HIV/AIDS affected in obtaining their antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART is a combination of drugs people living with HIV/AIDS must take lifelong in order to survive. According to the Center for Disease Control, ART prolongs the life of the AIDS affected and reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
A young woman from our Project Area who lives with AIDS contacted one of our outreach office soon after the lockdown began. She ran out of her ART and didn't know how she could refill her prescription.
"The strict travel restrictions prevented me from going out of the village and refilling my prescription at the government dispensary 10 miles away." Said Prema (not her real name). "My only option was obtain special permission from the village leader. But I couldn’t tell him why I was going otherwise he would come to know I had AIDS! If he came to know the whole village would shun me and my family. The only person I could trust was South Asia Access (SAA) staff. So I called her to help me”
The SAA staff called the dispensary on Prema's behalf and arranged for them to deliver the ART drugs to the Prema.
But Prema's predicament was only the tip of the iceberg! If she couldn't obtain her ART in a discrete way then the other HIV/AIDS affected people that SAA staff ministers to must be in a similar predicament. So, SAA staff leaped into action and made arrangements for another 260 other HIV/AIDS affected to have their ART safely and discretely delivered to them by the government dispensary.
Being that SAA is the only non-profit organization (Christian or otherwise) working in our Project Area, our team's timely action was able to avert a major health crisis among the HIV/AIDS affected living there. He we not been there, who know what may have happened!