Lack of funds shuts HIV care centres, one by one

Driven out of her home at Indapur in Pune district after her husband died due to AIDS and she tested positive for HIV, she regained her confidence after 14 days of counselling at Vanchit Vikas's community care centre in Pune. She has today been welcomed back by her family.

The community care centre (CCC), however, was shut down last week. "We just do not have funds to help look after the people living with HIV anymore," says Meena Kurlekar, coordinator. The ten-bed CCC had been funded for the last three years by Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT).

The Pune centre looked after 1,760 people living with HIV. Two or three hours' drive away from Pune, the Snehalaya community care centre at Ahmednagar is struggling.

CCCs have been part of the National AIDS Control Programme since 2008. Each of the 350 CCCs in the country was required to have 10 beds and the programme was funded by Global Fund via NACO. Maharashtra and Karnataka had 96 centres, but since last year there has been no scale-up and today there are only 54 in the two states, 26 of them in Maharashtra.

At Snehayalaya, founder Dr Girish Kulkarni protested the shortage of funds and managed to get an extension till March next year. "We have 1,860 people living with HIV at our institution. A grant of Rs 16-18 lakh to run a 10-bed centre is provided each year under the CCC project. We have helped people with HIV rebuild their lives," says Kulkarni.

At the 250-bed Bel Air Hospital at Panchgani, which runs a community care centre, director Father Tomy Kariyilakulam too said they were not getting funds. "However, we are committed to treating extremely sick patients," says Father Tomy. "It is the care and support given to people living with HIV that really help them pick up the threads of life."

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