Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Social stigma keeps third gender away from reach of Hepatitis C treatment
IFP Bureau | First Published: March 1, 2020 01:01:25 am
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The HIV Sentinel Surveillance (HSS) Report 2016-2017 has listed Manipur as one of the states that has high prevalence rate of HIV infected MSM (Man who have Sex with Man). But due to the stigma and discrimination experienced by third gender community, their health status is often kept concealed.

As per the HSS Report, third gender is among the most vulnerable group for HIV/AIDS infection. The prevalence rate of HIV infected MSM is 8.4 percent which is more than national average of five percent. Despite the grim situation, treatment of Hepatitis C, which is one of the co-infectious diseases of HIV/AIDS, provided by government irrespective of gender, caste, creed is nil in Manipur.

According to data received from Model Treatment Centre of Hepatitis C, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Sciences (JNIMS), 198 people have registered for Hepatitis C treatment since the inaugural of the centre till February 10. Out of the total, 136 males and 15 females are being treated.

Also Read: Manipur must play major role in eradication of HIV/AIDS: Health Minister Jayantakumar

At Model Treatment Centre for Hepatitis C, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), 198 people were registered for Hep C treatment since the inaugural of the centre till February 10. Out of the total, 136 males and 15 female are being treated.

Treatment is also being given specially to Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) by non-profitable organisations such as YRG-Care Manipur and Social Awareness Service Organisation (SASO) Manipur.

At YRG-Care, 2028 patient were treated during the past four years. Four transgender came for screening and out of them; three came up with negative results. One person was found positive but the viral load was undetected. Whereas at SASO, 177 patients were given free treatment and out of the total, there was only one MSM.

During an interaction with Imphal Free Press, one of the staff of SASO MSM said that the reason behind less attendance of Hepatitis C treatment among third gender is mainly because of stigma and discrimination.

Also Read: World AIDS Day 2019: Fighting self-stigma is the first step to overcome HIV stigma

This has caused an imbalance between prevalence rate of HIV infection and Hepatitis C treatment among third genders, he added.

He further said that the government of India had passed an Act to empower the third gender community but in reality, people’s attitude towards third gender has still not changed. Unless the mind-set of marginalising them is removed from the common people, their participation will be always low in any sphere, he stated.

“Belonging to a group which is misunderstood by most, the people usually treat third gender in a very unwelcoming manner. This has resulted in making aloof from public life, and their personal matters have become even more secretive,” he said.

Therefore, the treatment level of HIV/AIDS among this group is still very low even though the state has detected HIV infection for the first time in 1990s, he informed. “So it is very obvious to have negligible rate of Hepatitis C treatment among this group,” he added.

Also Read: Lack of staff disarms Tamenglong district AIDS control unit

He further informed that SASO was established in 1991 and had started HIV prevention programme for MSM since 1999. During this journey of around 30 years, 904 MSM had come for HIV/AIDS screening, he informed. Out of them, some are infected with HIV/AIDS but maximum of the infected person have not come for ART treatment, he added.

They only come for the HIV treatment only when they are in critical stage, he said. Even in this condition, they get ART through someone’s hand, he added.

When asked about means of improving the rate of Hepatitis C treatment, he said society should start taking seriously about this disease as early detection will help saving thousands of life. The gender sensitisation among the general public and holding of continuous awareness programmes is highly needed to enhance the number of treatment, he added.   

– Phurailatpam Keny Devi

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