No scheme to help children with HIV

NEW DELHI, April 20: The government admits it has no effective programme to address issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS affected orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in the country. Apart from the HIV infected children, those who have been orphaned by AIDS need support and treatment as well.

Ajita Singh, for The Statesman.

The Union minister of health and family welfare, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, apprised the Lok Sabha of this fact recently. According to a statement laid on the table of the House, so far there is no defined strategy to take care of AIDS affected children. While the government is committed to provide due care to the estimated 2.5 million persons living with HIV/AIDS, neither the Central nor state governments have been able to take any special measures to address the constraints or problems being faced by HIV/AIDS affected children, particularly of OVC category across the country, he admitted.

The reason for this inaction, according to Dr Ramadoss, is the unavailability of data on HIV affected orphans and vulnerable children. “In the absence of data regarding the number of infected and affected orphans and vulnerable children, no defined strategy could be formulated to target the specific group though these children are in as much need of government intervention as are the HIV infected lot,” he stated.

Though the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is carrying out some key programmes to provide support and treatment to some 9,478 infected children of the total 32,803 HIV positive children that the organisation has identified, it feels handicapped in identifying HIV affected orphans. “Actually, keeping track of all HIV affected orphans is a gigantic task,” said Dr Damoder Bachani, joint director, care, support and treatment division of NACO. “Once the parent/s of these HIV affected children die or stop coming to us for treatment we lose all contact with such children,” said Dr Bachani, adding that HIV damages a child’s life in three main ways: through its effects directly on the child, on the child’s family, and on the community that the child is growing up in.

The Lok Sabha was informed that under the National AIDS Control Phase III (NACP-III), 2007-2012, two initiatives have been launched: provision of a specific pediatric fixed dose combination of anti-retroviral drugs to infected children and access to a corpus of $14 million from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria Round-IV in 2007-08 for providing a package of services including medical care for opportunistic infections, psycho-social support, supplementary nutrition, education, etc, over a period of five years. All these interventions are also targeting infected and affected children, including orphans, as per the government statement. The programme aims to reach 65,000 children by 2012. Of this 5,500 children have been taken care of and NACP-III is expected to provide assistance to 9,500 more children by this year-end, siad the report tabled in the Lok Sabha.

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