Aug 13, 2008

India - Kerala Reserves post for HIV Positive (G.Read)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: This is a quota that is unlikely to be embroiled in a debate about merit dilution and fairness. Kerala became the first Indian state on Tuesday to reserve a government job for HIV positive candidates, marking a new sensitivity for those afflicted with the killer virus.

The Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) announced that it had reserved a vacancy in its office for HIV positive candidates with the hope that the presence of such a person will improve coordination and communication with groups at risk and ensure effective prevention.

"We have issued advertisements inviting applications to the post of coordinator, People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), only from candidates who are HIV positive. Earlier, we had set this as a desirable factor, but then we decided to make it an essential one," KSACS project director and special secretary, health, Usha Titus told TOI.

"Right now in Kerala, we have what is called 'drop-in centres'. They work to facilitate grouping or association of people with HIV/AIDS. The belief is that when they come together, they would get to share their problems and it would be a great relaxing factor," Titus said.

But there are thousands of HIV affected who still keep themselves out of these collectives, for fear of being identified and perhaps ostracised by larger society which still sees HIV and AIDS patients as dangerous and dissolute.

"The aim of reserving the post is to reach out to them. We believe that a lifestyle modification may be possible if somebody who understands their problem better is in charge. It will also help us send out our message in a better way as the channel of communication will be better," Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) project director and special secretary, health, Usha Titus said.

AIDS prevention groups laud Kerala move to reserve post

NGOs working in the field of HIV and AIDS prevention said they were delighted. "This is a very positive step. The best way to fight the disease is to break the confidentiality which is maintained by those affected by it to avoid the associated stigma," said J Rajasekharan Nair of Thrani, an NGO working with high-risk groups like sex workers.

"When Nelson Mandela's son died of AIDS, he had said that the HIV affected should break the confidentiality," he said.

"They should be encouraged to come forward as confidentiality can only lead to their isolation."

Kerala has an estimated 25,000 HIV positive people. The prevalence is maximum (5% to 10%) among ingesting drug users followed by high risk groups like male and female sex workers, where the rate is 0.2%. Also an average of 0.13% of pregnant women test positive for the disease.

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