Saving lives in the lockdown by home delivering HIV medicines
Plan India’s flagship project Ahana is working relentlessly to serve as a bridge between People Living with HIV (PLHIV) including pregnant women and the life-saving medicine called Antiretroviral (ARV) to ensure that their treatment is not stopped during the lockdown. The HIV positive pregnant women are required to start these medicines as soon as possible for their own health and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
371 Ahana Field Officers are active in 357 districts of 14 states with emergency passes issued by the respective state governments to ensure a constant supply of ARV medicines and create awareness about COVID-19 symptoms and management.
Ahana works actively to identify positive pregnant women and link them with the Antiretroviral (ART) Centres to minimise mother to child transmission of HIV. When the national lockdown was announced each of the state teams faced challenges in the absence of a public transport system. It became difficult to ensure access to the ART Centres as they are usually at far off places, either at the district headquarters or in some other districts.
So, Ahana teams in each of the states swiftly came into action and brainstormed ways to home-deliver the medicines to people already registered with the project. The teams analysed the database from the list of registered positive pregnant women, their spouses/ partners, and exposed children in each of the geographies and pinned down on the clients who had less than a month of ARV medicine left. The state teams contacted the people over the telephone for assessing their medicine requirements and other needs.
The Field Officers then carried out rigorous advocacy with the State Health Departments, explaining them about the importance of the delivery of the medicines to the positive pregnant women and the PLHIV to avoid any drug resistance and further complications.
With the help of emergency passes issued by the department, the medicines were then collected by the Field Officers from the nearest ART and delivered at the doorstep of the clients. For food-related support, the teams provided nutrition packages to the PLHIV families and linked them with ration services initiated by the government.
Ahana teams are currently home delivering ARV medicines in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
Plan India’s project Ahana is a national programme that is being implemented in partnership with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). It focusses on increasing the uptake of Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) services among women in the most marginalized communities of India.
Ahana has reached 16.5 million pregnant women – 55% of India’s annual pregnancy load – which has resulted in 13 million women being tested for HIV, an unprecedented scale for any programme of its kind.
Stories from the fieldDelivering medicines to HIV+ pregnant women in Assam
Roopkatha, the Ahana Project Officer in Assam, is looking after 21 HIV positive pregnant women who were registered with Ahana in two districts – Karimganj and Dima Hasao – with the help of three other Field Officers. She followed up with the women to ensure that they have an uninterrupted supply of Antiretroviral (ARV), a life-saving drug for HIV+ patients during the lockdown.
She identified the women basis an assessment of the positive pregnant women who were registered at the nearest ART Centre, which is a district adjoining to Karimganj.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, she obtained emergency passes for her team from the district authorities, so that the Field Officers could travel to the Centre to collect the medicines and deliver them to the pregnant women.
They devised a home-delivery plan of collection and delivering the medicines to the required addresses by distributing the responsibilities amongst themselves so that a faster and efficient delivery can be ensured. Roopkatha and her team’s commitment to helping the HIV+ pregnant women who are locked down in their houses due to COVID-19 outbreak resulted in delivering the medicines within three days, thus giving a healthy future to the many yet to be born children.