India's Health and Welfare ministry has called for free transport for HIV patients. It also wants them to be provided jobs under a national scheme and ration cards entitling holders to subsidized rice, kerosene and sugar.
Only Wednesday the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) had obtained the Supreme Court's approval for a scheme to step up medical facilities for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). It was at the time the court had directed the medical community not to deny treatment to the PLHA segment.
The NACO is also said to have mobilized mobilised $700 million to fight the AIDS. It is now planning to set up 650 link anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres across the country.
Meantime federal Health Secretary Naresh Dayal has written to his counterparts in the ministries of railways, transport, food and rural development seeking a slew of concessions for PLHA.
His letter notes that though the government is providing free treatment to HIV patients, that by itself was not sufficient to alleviate their problems.
Their earning capacity might have already been hampered because of the disease, and they might find it difficult even to commute to the ART centres for treatment.
In the circumstances, providing them more concessions should be in order, Dayal argues.
Wage or employment guarantee under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme has generally come in for praise from economists, though it is only a modest effort, guaranteeing jobs for 100 days in a year to poorer households.
Of course they are all unskilled manual labour and at low wages. Besides there have been complaints of siphoning off by vested interests. Still it is some step forward for the poorest of the poor. The Health ministry wants that scheme to be extended to the PLHA segment.
On the same count, providing them ration cards could make life that much better for them. There are 2.5 million HIV positive people in India, it has been estimated.