Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Right (GSCPCR) has come down heavily on Goa State AIDS Control Society (GSACS) in the matter of welfare and protection of children living with HIV, stating that the society “is not acting honestly in the spirit in which the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 has been framed”.
In a letter addressed to the State Health Secretary, with a copy to the Health Minister, the Commission alleged that there is “complete disconnect, with GSACS merely operating like an event management company, trying to score points, focusing on mere tokenistic programmes, with no connect to ground realities and needs”.
The Commission that held a review meeting on implementation of HIV and AIDS found that several children infected with HIV at birth are surviving into adolescence and are invisible in the response of GSACS, apart from free medication.
“Without adequate care and support, they experience losses in health, nutrition, education, affection, security and protection. They suffer emotionally from rejection, discrimination, fear, loneliness and depression,” the letter, signed by GSCPCR chairperson Peter Borges, stated.
It further said that several of the children have dropped out of school and are struggling to survive and are experiencing increased poverty, abandonment, or an added burden of responsibility for themselves and other family members.
“They are at increased risk for abuse and exploitation. Their rights are ignored as family property is taken; siblings are separated with several of them becoming homeless. Some of them are at high risk of poor adherence to ART, disengagement from HIV care, immunological deterioration, and death,” it further stated.
The Commission also said that there is practically no headway in mainstreaming and social protection at GSACS for past few years and that “GSACS need to get down to some real work; behave responsibly build resilience in these children. It cannot be that they are sitting there helplessly seeing the children’s rights violated.”
It has made several recommendations including initiating appropriate disciplinary action against the Director of GSACS and Deputy Director; urgent notification of State Rules for the Act and appointment of ombudsman; access to all HIV sensitive social protection measures with simplified procedure to children and adolescents living with HIV; notify and enforce HIV and AIDS policy for establishments in Goa.
Formulating and making HIV and AIDS related information available, education and communication programmes which is age-appropriate, gender-sensitive, non-stigmatising and non-discriminatory; revise citizen’s charter of GSACS with updated information on services and the process of availing the services; immediately arrange for pediatric HIV medicines drugs which are facing stock out, were other recommendations.
It has sought an action report on the recommendations within four weeks.