Toll-free helpline for HIV patients launched


There are about 2.5 lakh people in the state living with HIV/AIDS but only 1.05 lakh have registered themselves with the AIDS Prevention and Control project, said Dr S Vijaykumar, special secretary, health and project director and member-secretary of the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, at the launch of a toll-free helpline for people living with HIV/AIDS on Tuesday. “We are aiming at 75% registration; only then will they benefit from the services being provided,” he added.

On taking the movement against HIV/AIDS forward, Dr Vijaykumar said 40 more ART link centres would be set up next year. Currently, there are 50 such centres.

Health secretary V K Subburaj, who launched the toll-free service, made the first call to Hello+ on 1800 419 1800. “The state has a good success rate in creating awareness, taking preventive action, creating facilities for patients and developing supportive programmes.
Now, the launch of the helpline has fulfilled a long-felt need for providing counseling to meet the needs of a patient’s individual psyche, because AIDS and leprosy are the only two diseases with a stigma attached. So patients don’t talk about these two problems to their family or friends. They need to be counselled regularly and given the right information, which no amount of literature on the subject can provide,” he said.

He advised counsellors to update themselves regularly and asked the organizers to consider employing psychologists for expert advice. “This will attract a large number of callers. The organisers must finetune the system every month so it becomes a model for others,” he said. Bimal Charles , project director of the AIDS Prevention and Control Project, said: “APAC is moving from traditional implementation mode to providing strategic support.”

Hello+ will provide health education, psycho-social counselling and linkages to trained healthcare providers, non-governmental organizations in the field and positive networks. Based on the concept of a call centre, it will be operated through a public-private partnership between the AIDS Prevention and Control project and Tata Business Support Services. The service, being launched as a pilot initiative in thr state, will be replicated in other states in a phased manner.

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