A member of India’s PLHIV community reflects on ten years of access to free antiretroviral treatment.
Kanjibhai B Gadhia is a content man. A well-settled farmer from Amreli district of Gujarat, he tested positive 11 years ago.
“I fell seriously ill then. My condition was deteriorating day by day, and my family had lost all hope. No doctor was ready to treat me,” he recounts.
Then a private doctor came forward as a lifesaver. He not only treated him but also advised him on the importance of treatment adherence.
“He cautioned me about possible side-effects of the drugs so that I was mentally prepared for them and would not discontinue the medicines.”
As free anti-retroviral treatment (ART) was not available then, Kanjibhai got his medicines from the same doctor.
“In the beginning, I had bouts of severe nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and stomach cramps. But I did not give up, and slowly the side-effects vanished,” he says. “But what was more harder to manage was the cost of medicines. My wife had also tested positive, and after buying the medicines, we had hardly anything left.”
Thankfully, the government’s initiative to provide free ART at government hospitals came to Kanjibhai’s rescue.
“A representative from the district-level network of people living with HIV (PLHIV) told me about the scheme. In no time, my wife and I had registered. Since that day, we have not missed even a single dose. It is due to this regular ART regime that I am living a healthy and content life. ART is my partner for life, and I will never give it up.”
With support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Vihaan is establishing 350 Care & Support Centres across India that will help expand access to services, increase treatment adherence, reduce stigma and discrimination, and improve the quality of life of PLHIV. The centres will support PLHIV, including those from underserved and marginalized populations who have had difficulty in accessing treatment including women, children and high-risk groups in 31 states and territories.