If you thought photo identity cards were required only to cast votes during elections, think again.
The National Aids Control Organisation, in short NACO, has said AIDS patients seeking treatment free of cost at any of its anti-retro viral therapy centres across the country must from now on carry photo identity cards.
The move is sure to face opposition from AIDS patients who prefer to hide the disease from family members and society in a country where such people are treated as outcasts.
NACO, issuing the guideline, said this was being done to check the growing number of patients it was losing track of, which it said was defeating its goal to “ensure continuity in treatment of HIV patients”.
In a concession, however, it said those with no photo identity cards can produce residential proof attested by the area's elected public representative.
“Photo identity cards are turning out to be a real help for both patients, doctors and other staff at ART centres,” said Dr Vishwajeet Bembi, senior medical officer at the ART, or anti-retro viral therapy centre, here.
He elaborated that accurate address and identity help to keep track of patients who come from far-flung places of western Uttar Pradesh.
Treatment at ART centres helps patients to not only fight the deadly virus but also enhance life expectancy.
'Lost to follow-up' cases
But in many cases patients do not turn up regularly for treatment, forcing doctors and medical workers to make efforts to locate these “lost patients” - which they call “lost to follow-up” cases.
And to trace these cases, an ART centre requires the accurate address and, to make their task easier, the photograph of the patient that many do not provide because they fear by doing so they can no longer hide the fact they are HIV-positive in a country where the disease is still seen as a stigma.
Usually, educated patients or those from urban areas provide fake identities, said Dr Bembi. “Such negligence by patients ultimately defeats our goal to keep the spread of the deadly virus under control,” said Dr Bembi, explaining why a close monitoring of each patient was significant.
“Even the efforts of other patients who live in the vicinity of a given address yield no result,” explained another worker at the centre, adding that in few cases lost patients were found dead and others were misguided by people that their visits to ART centres might “expose” them in society.
Since it started functioning on December 8, 2005, the ART centre here has received 1,023 patients from various districts of western Uttar Pradesh. Majority are from lower strata of the society and include children and women.