HIV positive patients Bishnu Bhagat and wife Mira Devi (names changed) from Araria are in a quandary following the closure of Holy Family Community Care Centre closed down. The couple used to undergo treatment here.
Not only these patients, people from more than a 200-km radius (covering Kosi region, Seemanchal, entire eastern Bihar and even Santhal Pargana of Jharkhand) afflicted with HIV/AIDS would now face difficulties after the centre closed on March 31.
The unit closed down after the expiry of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s globally-funded project christened CBCI GFATM PACT Project, a scheme under NACP-III of the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco).
Budhani Devi, another AIDS patient from Madhepura, recounted how she was sent back from Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JLNMCH) in November, 2012 after the authorities came to know about her condition.
A senior doctor at JLNMCH said: “We used to refer HIV patients to the centre because it was the best in the region.”
Sister Shancy, the project co-ordinator of the centre, said: “We had been assigned the project from 2008 to March 2013. During the period, we registered 3,023 patients.” She added that even after expiry of the project, more than 14 patients had been referred from JLNMCH’s anti-retroviral therapy unit. Shancy said the centre used to provide a five-day intensive anti-retroviral therapy drug adherence course and also used to arrange for their stay during the course of treatment.
Sister Ancy, the president of the centre, said the unit used to receive nearly Rs 1.5 lakh every month.
On the issue of AIDS patients not receiving proper treatment, Binod Kumar, the JLNMCH superintendent, declined comment. However, health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey said: “I don’t know about the problem of the Holy Family Community Care Centre but I would take proper steps so that AIDS patients do not suffer at JLNMCH.”
Sunil Kumar, the Bhagalpur sub-divisional officer, also assured to help the members of the centre. “We would request the secretary of food and civil supplies department to provide free foodgrain to AIDS patients. We would arrange alternative livelihood opportunities for them.”
Officials of the State AIDS Control Society, said they had no role in continuation of the project. “The centre got an A grade from Naco in November 2012, but everything has been directly done by the AIDS Alliance, which was engaged by Naco,” an official said.