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Kalyan pharmacy to be 'support system' for HIV positive patients

22-May-2007: Mumbai, May 22: At First glance, this medicine shop seems no different from the scores of other pharmacies dotting Kalyan. But TAAL pharmacy is an unusual harbinger of hope for HIV positive persons in this township.

Network in Thane by Positive People (NTP+), a local branch of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLHA), has tied up with TAAL pharmacy to provide anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) to patients along with counselling and regular follow-ups. "This shop will provide complete support system for such patients," said Ashima Sanghvi (name changed), president of NTP+.

Though the state government provides ARV drugs free of cost since 2005, inadequate or delayed supply of drugs often causes a time gap, and exposes patients to the risk of becoming immune to that particular drug. To fill up this lacuna, TAAL pharmacy has tied up with Emcure Pharmaceuticals Company, which supplies ARV drugs at a subsidised rate in Kalyan and its neighbouring areas. This new initiative by NTP+ will ensure that the treatment continues uninterrupted.

"TAAL is an unique initiative to extend treatment opportunities to all HIV positive patients," said Shabana. Patients from affluent backgrounds often don't want to visit government hospitals. Private practitioners, on the other hand, sometimes don't prescribe the right combination of drugs, creating multi-drug resistance among patients.

"We will study the prescriptions and give drugs accordingly after counselling the patients about their usage. This will curb misuse of these drugs," said Patel.

But the shop's benefits are not only limited to the affluent section of society. It is also ideal for people from a poor background, who cannot avail the free ARV drugs as that requires long hours of waiting in government hospitals. "If a person earns a meager Rs 100 a day, he will lose out on it by waiting in the long queue the whole day. The shop will provide them ARV drugs at a 40 per cent discount," said Patel. Many patients are hesitant about buying ARV drugs publicly because of the social stigma attached to HIV and AIDS. Keeping this in mind, TAAL pharmacy will deliver the drugs directly to the patients' homes so that their identities are not revealed. "Our field officers will visit their homes, check whether the private doctors are authorised to prescribe drugs and also counsel the patients," said Deepak Panzade, programme manager.

However, NTP+ strongly recommends that HIV positive people register themselves in the government's ARV programme first rather than relying completely on private medication. "We have three more franchises in Nagpur, Aurangabad and Pune, where we enrolled 700 patients. But we also managed to convince 158 patients out of the 700 to enroll in the government ARV programme last year," said Patel.

Source: Mumbai Newsline

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