27/03/08

Cheap travel for mountaineers and HIV-positives in India

India’s sprawling railway network will from next week allow HIV-infected people to travel half-price, the Economic Times reports. Since it’s India, there’s red tape to go with the red ribbons — the discount is only for second class travel to and from approved HIV treatment centres and people “have to produce (a) certificate in prescribed form issued by officer-in-charge of the concerned ART centre where the patient is to be treated or has been treated.” But still.

The HIV concession brings Indian Railways’ list of socially-motivated discounts to 50. Some of my favourites are ” Either of parents accompanying the Child Recipients of National Bravery Award – travelling for any purpose” (50% off) and “Persons taking part in Mountaineering Expeditions organised by IMF” (75% off). Since I’ve been exposed to all those Big Pharma ads in which good-looking muscle-bound guys pop their antiretrovirals before climbing a glacier and abseiling down it, I’m wondering: Do HIV-positive mountaineers get a double-discount?

Seriously, I think this is good news for three reasons. Firstly, it may actually make it easier for people to get their treatment. Secondly, it is an indication that the appalling miasma of stigma that hangs over HIV in India may be thinning. And thirdly, it is an example of a “multi-sectoral response” that is actually useful. The fashion for trying to make HIV everyone’s business is often counterproductive. In most of the world we really don’t need oil companies holding concerts on World AIDS Day, or HIV task forces in the Ministry of Fisheries. We do need people who need sterile needles, condoms and treatment for sexually transmitted infections to be able to get them, cheaply and easily. Ditto people who need antiretorvirals. If Indian Railways initiative helps achieve that, bravo.

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This post was published on 27/03/08 in Money and AIDS.

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  1. Comment by Chris Green, 30/03/08, 04:19:

    Interestingly, ten years or so ago, people with HIV were banned from traveling on the Indian railways!

    But we do need to make sure we explain the reasons behind such positive discrimination. People with diabetes have a point when that note that they must pay for syringes, while ‘junkies’ get them for free.

    We must ensure that the activism around HIV improves the health services for all, not just for people with HIV. That means that we must press for the diabetics to get free needles too…

    Chris

    Elizabeth comments: I agree emphatically. But is there a way of providing clean needles for diabetics with money from HIV prevention sources? Because whether we like it or not (and of course the answer is not), funding fashion has created an inequity that now “favours” HIV over other health needs.

  2. Comment by Chris Green, 01/04/08, 01:15:

    Eli,
    Of course you are right. Perhaps my hope (dream?) is of health care funding which is no longer dependent upon ‘funding fashion’, but is provided by, or at least channeled through national governments, to be used in an equitable manner. Yes, of course I’m an idealistic fool!

    Chris

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