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PEP, a critical HIV prevention treatment, is often denied on grounds that are driven by morality rather than medicine. Will this change in the post-Section era? In June, CM, a year-old who was working in Delhi at the time, dialled CM told the operator that he needed PEP post-exposure prophylaxis pills, an anti-HIV medication, which needs to be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, if an individual feels they have been potentially exposed to HIV.

I told him that I urgently needed these pills. How can a helpline committed to preventing HIV, not be able to help me get these pills? When we calledwe were told that PEP was reserved for hospital clinicians only. The helpline also gives callers details of the nearest ART antiretroviral therapy clinic. CM and I are sitting in the foyer of a college in Chennai. Inthe then additional solicitor general, P. When CM made the call in July, it was still a crime for a man to have consensual sex with another man.

I had unprotected sex. But I lied because I thought it would elicit a better response or give them a sense of urgency and they would do whatever they could to get me the pill. Instead, they were very cavalier in the way they spoke to me. CM was advised by the helpline operator to go to the nearest government hospital. Humari policy nahin hai yeh dene ko Sorry, the government has told us not to give the medicines.

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It is our policy not to give these out. PEP is a potentially life-saving medication that minimizes the likeliness of HIV infection after probable exposure. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it is likely to be. To get on the pill, the individual must be HIV negative and must take it for 28 days, at the same hour of the day. It is effective on heterosexual men and women, and drug-injecting users as well. The World Health Organization recommends that PEP must be made available to all individuals who could have been potentially exposed to HIV, but the Union government, due to concerns around misuse, provides the treatment only to medical staff for occupational exposure at public hospitals.

Neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka have the same policy. If you are having sex, then please use a condom—this is our stance. If a person is raped, the standard operating procedure at government hospitals is to give PEP to the individual.

The doctors who were examining her were reported to have asked her tauntingly how she could even be raped. It provides PEP to anyone in need for free. In most developed nations, such as Australia, the US and the UK, there are government guidelines in place for treatment of non-occupational exposure like sexual intercourse to the virus.

PEP is available at public health centres, in emergencies, to anyone in need. Further, it is provided free of cost in countries like the UK and Ireland. Manvendra Singh Gohil, belonging to the erstwhile royal family of Rajpipla in Gujarat, navigated through his own sense of stigmatization from his family before finally coming to terms with his sexuality. As the ambassador for AHF, India, he notes that there has been a sea change after the Section ruling. That fear, that they will be seen as criminals, is no more.

They bring their partners as well. The Act prohibits discrimination in employment and treatment against those with HIV. It also ensures confidentiality. It forbids people, corporate organizations and healthcare institutions from disclosing the HIV status of an individual. This Act in India was necessary because HIV is not seen as a health issue, but a social issue due to stigmatization.

But now this awareness needs to be disseminated so that people are made aware of their rights. In Sant Nagar, a residential complex in Delhi, a cluster of low-rise buildings stand close to one another. In India, if you want to be tested for HIV, you have to be 18 years or older. There are the oft-heard narratives of sexual exploitation: a class teacher, an older cousin, an uncle, older sibling—the invisible predators.

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The rape and abuse cultivated an irreversible sense of anxiety within him and made him more vulnerable to sexual bullying from others. He tested HIV positive at the age of Often adolescents who are involved in sexual activities by force or otherwise are not aware of their HIV status. Khan has his own story to tell. When he was 17, he went to two government-run ICTC labs integrated counselling and testing centre to get himself tested. Both did not permit him to get the test done without a guardian by his side. Desperate, when he went to the third centre, he lied, stating his age to be Khan tested HIV positive and was immediately put on treatment.

He began exploring his sexuality at the age of When he finally went, he tested positive. His CD4 count white blood cells which combat foreign infection had dropped to A healthy person has a CD4 count of anywhere betweenIn an April press release, the Union minister for health and family welfare J. Nadda said that there were nearly 1, ART clinics across the country.

They typically face a double stigma in government hospitals—of being transgender and being HIV positive. He recommended two hospitals. She had already had a bad experience at the first. She was operated upon at the second hospital and put on the ART programme thereafter, but after repeated discrimination, she eventually stopped visiting the hospital, and later died. Many places in India may state that they recognize the third gender, but these things mostly look good on paper. To actually have this in practice will take years.

We are sitting on a bench in Rajiv Chowk, New Delhi. SB sits poised, hands on her knees, her legs elegantly entwined. When I finally reached the counter, the pharmacist looked me up and down and refused to hand me the medicines," SB alleges.

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When I queued up behind the women, they appeared awkward around me. Gohil recalls the case of a young gay man who was HIV positive.

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Imagine what the mother must have gone through, since she was sitting right there. Many young people from the community in India suffer years of mental trauma and depression. Those who learn that they have HIV, must contend with an enhanced sense of fear and loneliness. Then to face their condition, accept it and finally muster the courage to visit a public hospital, only to be mocked or frowned upon, is demoralizing. At night, the poorly-lit parts of public parks and dingy corners underneath bridges or near public toilets transform into cruising sites where MSM and transgender individuals wander, looking for potential partners.

Kothis are an MSM sub-group who assume the female role while engaging in anal sex. Now if a bi-curious heterosexual man is getting free anal sex—since his wife is reluctant to give it to him at home—he might give in. The same man will go home and later have sex with his wife. That is another way HIV can spread. About six months ago, AHF initiated the Moonlight Project, which sends mobile vans to such locations at night and offers free, on-the-spot HIV testing. A study published in October in The Lancet stated that new HIV cases among men was slashed to a third in Australia by another antiretroviral pill, Truvada.

It is a daily pill that is taken as pre-exposure prophylaxis PrEP. The pill protects a healthy person from contracting the virus. It is meant to be had for as long as the person is sexually active.

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It only serves as an additional HIV prevention layer. PrEP pills, however, are available in private hospitals.

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To mitigate the reach of the AIDS epidemic would mean expanding research within these sub-groups, raising awareness about medication, including PEP and PrEP, while continuing to provide free HIV treatment to those belonging to the lower economic strata in public hospitals.

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