Shortage of lab technicians hits HIV diagnosis in Balangir

December 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

Following is a report from The Pioneer:

Even as the whole world observed World AIDS Day on December 1 with ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’ as this year’s theme in order to provide equal rights, opportunity, entitlement and healthcare facilities to people living with HIV/AIDS so that they can lead a dignified life, a cursory glance at the healthcare facilities available for people living with HIV/AIDS in Balangir reveals large-scale vacancies of laboratory technicians who ultimately and clinically declare whether a person is infected with HIV or not.

According to sources, out of the 14 blocks of the district, only five Integrated Counseling and Testing Centres (ICTCs) located at Balangir, Titlagarh, Patnagarh, Kantabanji and Chudapali are having a counsellor as well as a laboratory technician.

In the district headquarters hospital, there is only one lab technician who looks after both the sections of the ICTC. While ICTC-I looks after blood testing of male patients, ICTC-II looks after all ante-natal cases of pregnant women.

As a single lab technician in the hospital manages both the sections of the centre, the work load on him is very high and whenever he goes on leave the entire unit comes to a grinding halt.

Besides this, in Tureikela, Saintala and Tusura there is only counsellor which puts further burden on the lab technician of the nearby centre. Ironically, in the migrant-prone blocks of Loisingha, Muribahal and Khaprakhol, posts of both the counsellor and lab technician are lying vacant.

“As there is no testing facility, we are not getting any report of HIV-positive cases though the possibility is very high. Mere counselling is not enough and it is futile to expect poor persons to go to distant places to test their blood. When a poor person comes to ICTC after much counseling but returns empty handed or goes without testing, it becomes very difficult to bring him again to the testing centre mainly due to pessimism, poverty and other factors,” said an NGO worker. We regularly get reports of people returning back without having the necessary tests, he said further.

This is the sorry state of affairs when more and more HIV-positive cases are being detected after referral by link workers to nearby ICTCs after counseling. After the intervention of link workers of Action Aid, a number of referral cases are coming up even from areas like Tureikela, Belpada, Tusra and Gudvela blocks where requisite healthcare facilities are not available.

In the migrant-prone Belpada block there is only one counsellor. The post of laboratory technician is lying vacant. People from this block referred for HIV testing either go to Kantabanji or Patnagarh. The link workers scheme advocates for quality and effective health services. As a result, the district health administration and district AIDS prevention and control unit have taken alternative measures like deputation of technicians from other ICTCs.

“To partially ease their burden, we have imparted training in HIV blood testing to malaria technicians who are now able to manage emergency situations, said an official here. It is an ad hoc approach and permanent posting of personnel is very much required, commented an NGO activist. The appointment is done by Orissa State AIDS Council. A total of 135 posts of lab technicians are lying vacant in the six high-prevalence districts of Odisha,” disclosed a medical official.

The ART centre would come up by the end of this month, informed CDMO PC Sahu. Moreover, a community care centre would also be opened, he added. Already 247 people have been identified as HIV-positive and 35 have died of AIDS in the district. This is nothing but just the tip of the iceberg. Once NGOs involved in targeted intervention projects work properly, the number would go up to 1,500, warned Sahu.

Balangir district has been put in the ‘A’ category of high HIV-prevalence districts of Odisha in view of high migrant population, lack of awareness and ignorance and absence of treatment facilities. While crores of rupees are being spent on awareness, the vacant posts are not being filled up immediately. Once the vacant posts are filled up it would go a long way in detection of HIV, treatment of infected persons and awarding them a chance to live as guaranteed in the constitution, pointed out an NGO worker.

Entry filed under: Health Care Facility, HIV/AIDS diagnosis facilities.

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