Initiating ‘Buddy Group’ system for efficiency in serving people on antiretroviral treatment

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File Photo for representation purpose only

File Photo for representation purpose only

As the saying goes, a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. Alliance India’s Vihaan programme has been engaging community volunteers for additional support during the ongoing COVID-19 response. Vihaan administers 319 Care and Support Centers (CSCs) spread across 28 states and 4 union territories in India. Each CSC serves approximately 2000 to 4000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) registered with the programme. With a small CSC team, we are working against time to deliver ARV drugs to people who are unable to travel during this ongoing lockdown situation and we are taking every possible measure to ensure they don’t miss their dose of life-saving medication.

Presently, our Care and Support Centres are prioritising the due list, a list of people who are due to collect their Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from the ART centre, to ensure treatment adherence among PLHIV in the current turbulent scenario. The CSCs needed to act swiftly to connect with PLHIVs, identify those who are most vulnerable and plan the differentiated care as per the individual needs. The national team, recognising the need for delivery of life-saving ARV drugs to a large number of PLHIV as quickly as possible, directed the CSCs to mobilise volunteers from within the community for additional support.

The Uttar Pradesh Network of Positive People (UPNP+) with the guidance of Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (UPSACS) initiated a buddy group of six people in a district, later expanded to other districts, with the aim to reduce consumption in ART centre. In the buddy group, each month the members take turns to go to the ART centre and collect medicine for the rest of the group. They take advantage of Whatsapp to communicate and coordinate. The buddy group initiative has proven to be highly effective, especially in CSCs that have a high number of due list or MIS cases, a list of people who have missed their dose of antiretroviral medication.

For instance, in CSC Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, Rohit volunteered to serve as a buddy group member. When going to collect ARV drugs for himself, he first made a stop at CSC office, took the due list of four people along with the copies of their green books (treatment record) and collected ARV drugs from the ART Centre for everyone. He then visited homes of each PLHIV and delivered the medication at their doorsteps. Moreover, he counselled and encouraged them to adhere to the treatment.

UPNP plus is a state partner of Vihaan programme and is managing 27 CSCs in the state providing care and support services to 85739 people living with HIV. In the reporting period, a total of 2762 People living with HIV received home delivery of life-saving antiretroviral medication through buddy group members in addition to those reached by our outreach workers.

With such selfless services rendered by a large number of buddy group members, Vihaan programme was able to ease the burden on CSC teams and ART Centres whilst ensuring no PLHIV is left behind. Our programme would not achieve its objectives without the unwavering support and resilience exhibited by the communities themselves. It is because of thoughtful and kind individuals like Rohit who make countless sacrifices and act with compassion that we truly stand a chance to win against HIV and the threats of COVID-19.

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