Nearly 250 employees of the BEST and 300 city policemen are currently undergoing treatment for HIV/AIDS. So far, 150 and 100 HIV positive cases have been detected among BEST and city police force respectively. It is feared that the number of HIV/AIDS cases among the police could be higher.
The social stigma attached to HIV/AIDS and fear of discrimination prevents many policemen from coming forward to test their HIV status. Eventually, they land up at municipal or government hospitals, remarked Dr. SM Patil, a practicing surgeon at the police hospital in Nagpada.
Drivers and conductors are the worst hit by HIV/AIDS, according to BEST statistics. A majority of the non-Mumbai drivers stay alone in the city. These drivers have demanding schedules and indulge in sexual activities that increase the risk of HIV transmission to unwind themselves, said Omprakash Ahuja, chief medical officer, BEST.
In addition to funding HIV/AIDS treatment programs, awareness programmes are also being conducted on a regular basis by both the organizations, in the best interest of the employees. The cost associated with HIV treatment is roughly about Rs 2, 000 per patient every month.
The HIV/ AIDS awareness programmes that were previously conducted at centralized locations have now been shifted to staff colonies, said general manager Mr. Kshatiya. This enables the employee's family members to also participate in the programs. Although most of the people were reluctant to disclose their HIV positive status initially, they have now come forward to take up treatment for the same.
The officer also expressed the need for sensitive treatment of those who suffer from HIV/AIDS. Most of the drivers and conductors who suffer from AIDS are being absorbed into office work to ensure that their new job doesn't cause any strain.
The police department is organizing awareness programmes supported by the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS). 'We encourage staff to report their condition by promising them confidentiality. No one apart from the doctor and the patient knows,' said Joint Commissioner of Police (administration) Subhash Awate.
'Private companies generally do not reimburse the cost of treatment for HIV. They should learn how to combat HIV from the state agencies. The BEST's annual medical budget on this account last year was more than Rs10 crore,' said Anjana Palve, coordinator of workplace intervention, MDACS, encouraging such corporate initiatives.