Kohima, June 14: Even as Nagaland remains grappled with the challenges of fighting the COVID-19, group of NGOs working in the field of HIV/AIDS and other related diseases have strongly urged the State government to ‘equally’ take care of the persons suffering from HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and drugs.
The NGOs working in this field including Network of Nagaland Drugs and AIDS Organisations (NNagaDAO), Access to Rights and Knowledge (ARK) Foundation, Kripa Foundation and Network of Naga People Living with HIV/AIDS (NNP+) expressed the grievances of such persons during a media interaction in the State capital on Sunday.
“We all understand that COVID-19 pandemic is a social concern for all of us, but despite the unprecedented situation, we as a group of people working for PLHIV and those recovering drug addicts and also drug sensitive TB have observed the many of the welfare programmes that are ongoing and implemented by various agencies, particularly by Nagaland State AIDS Control Society in the State are being sidelined.
The government agencies are facing lots of problem with the present pandemic but the direct end receivers or the persons infected from HIV/AIDS and TB are suffering because they are no having access to all the services due to the focus being shifted to COVID-19, said NNagaDAO general secretary Ketho Angami.
Since the first phase of lockdown on March 25, the state health department has been focused on COVID-19 containment but new challenges are emerging out of the HIV/AIDS and drug users related problems.
Access to HIV/AIDS related services has become a big challenge for the beneficiary, and also the service providers, he said while elaborating that they are unable to avail the services of the hospitals attached with ART Centres along with lab facilities for baseline clinical investigation.
“Even if HIV patients go to such centres no service is provided as the medical staff, who are supposed to attend to the needs of such persons have been put into COVID-19 duty,” he said.
While giving attention to COVID-19 patents and the quarantine centers, programmes on HIV/AIDS, TB and drug users should not be totally neglected, he said.
Being an airborne infection, TB itself is a serious health problem and it can affect any of us but since COVID-19 is a new virus all focus, he said, adding “we should not worsen the health of those already suffering as they are more susceptible to contract severe diseases”.
NNP+ president Lanu Aier said Dimapur ART centre is the most affected as there is no doctor or nurses as they have been deployed for COVID-19 duties, while the ART centre is left unattended with patients missing on the regular medicines and also regular health checkups.
Moreover, though the ART Centre has been relocated, the CD-4 count machine has not been shifted from at Dimapur Hospital, he said.
HIV/AIDS patients are supposed to get free treatment at government designated hospitals but with the current pandemic there are no doctors and nurses while the patients are being directed to private hospitals, which are not encouraging patients suffering from HIV.
COVID-19 is here to stay for a long period and therefore we need to learn with the virus like HIV and other viruses, said NNagaDAO president Abu Mere while stressing on the need for creating better awareness beyond testing and treatment especially among the key population.
“People should not be deprived to treatment as they too have their ‘right to health”, said Mere while urging the state government “not to abandon the initiatives on HIV/AIDS, TB and drug users”.
The NGOs also said that NNagadao has already written to the State government to retain the doctors and nurses assigned for the ART centres in order to take care of the already suffering patients from such diseases. (Page News Service)