BENGALURU: A year after National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) issued an order to the project directors of all state AIDS Control Societies to link the life-saving Anti-Retroviral Therapy services with Aadhaar, less than 50 percent of HIV patients have linked their Aadhaar fearing stigma. Karnataka is one of the eight highest HIV-prevalent states.“For effective monitoring and to avoid duplication, it is necessary to link all PLHIVs (People Living with HIV) with Aadhaar cards. It is to be ensured that all PLHIVs must bring their Aadhaar cards to ART Centres for linkages or they should be assisted in getting linked to Aadhaar centres for the issuance of Aadhaar card, in case they don’t have it,” the October 3 order read.
The most vulnerable among HIV patients are sex workers, truckers, migrants and homosexuals. The health department runs targeted interventions in these high-risk groups through a network of NGOs. Ranjini from Vijaya Mahila Sangha is the project director of a migrant workers’ group and said, “These workers are from Maharashtra, Bihar among other northern states. All HIV-affected people in my group are women and they fear that once the Aadhaar number is entered in the database, it will show their status as HIV positive. It takes a great deal of counselling to convince them to go to ART Centres. When they are asked for ID proofs they get scared about being identified in public.”
Geetha from the same organisation is the project director for running targeted interventions in female sex workers.“As many as 32 of the workers in my group are HIV positive. All of them have linked their ART services with Aadhaar because without the cards they won’t be provided treatment,” she said.
However, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) regional coordinator for the state, Ravi Kumar B, denied it. He said, “No individual is denied treatment for lack of Aadhaar. If he/she does not want to link it, they may say so in writing, and we will not force them. We have 52,000 people ‘lost to follow up’ who cannot be tracked.
“About 50 percent patients have not linked their Aadhaar. We want them to avail government schemes. With Aadhaar, we can have their address and counselling will be possible. There is no breach of privacy as we do not share the details anywhere.”