Pension Scheme for HIV-Affected

Pension Scheme for HIV-AFFECTED

The inclusion of people living with HIV in a government pension scheme has given a new lease of life to thousands in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

A New Lease of Life for People Living with HIV/AIDS

“Why should I feel death each day? I am just like others,” says 35-year-old Minati Pradhan* from Orissa’s Bhadrak district. Minati is HIV positive and stays with her mother-in-law. Until a few months ago, she relied solely on the meager income from farming. But after she began receiving Rs. 200 (about US$4) per month from the Government of Orissa’s ‘Madhu Babu Pension Yojana’ (MBPY) she has been able to complement her income. The increased income has enabled her to send her two sons to a local school.

Highlights

  • People living with HIV (PLHIVs) - irrespective of age, gender, caste and economic status – are eligible for pension under the Madhu Babu Pension Yojana scheme launched by Government of Orissa
  • People living with HIV (PLHIVs) - irrespective of age, gender, caste and economic status – are eligible for pension under the Madhu Babu Pension Yojana scheme launched by Government of Orissa
  • Increase in PLHIVs accessing pension from 70-90 percent from May 2008 to 90 percent in December 2008

Forty two-year-old Bhakta Das* – a resident of Cuttack district who is living with HIV – is another recipient of the pension. “I used to delay going to the treatment centre for my monthly stock of medicines due to the travel costs involved. As a result, I suffered from two severe bouts of infections,” he says, adding: “The pension money takes care of my travel costs and I can get my medicines easily. I have been told that taking medicines regularly in time will help delay the onset of AIDS.”

Pushpa Rout*, who is HIV positive, is a 23-year-old expectant mother. She takes more care of herself now and goes for antenatal check-ups. Pushpa wants to save the pension amount for her unborn child’s future.

Like Minati, Bhakta and Pushpa, many people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Orissa now benefit from the MBPY scheme, which was earlier available only to those belonging to socially disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the state. All PLHIVs – irrespective of age, gender, caste and economic status – are eligible for pension under this scheme that was launched by Orissa’s chief minister in January 2008.

The innovative initiative, which is probably the first-of-its-kind in India, was a result of vigorous advocacy efforts of the Orissa State AIDS Control Society (OSAC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “The decision was also necessitated as most of the PLHIVs in Orissa who tested at the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres belonged to economically disadvantaged sections,” said UNDP Country Director Deirdre Boyd.

The scheme is one of the many outcomes of UNDP’s ‘Mainstreaming of HIV’ project that is being jointly undertaken by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) in five states, including Orissa. The other four states are Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The pension cheques are sent to the beneficiaries every month from the office of the respective block development officers as per a list. The list is disseminated to each district collector from the OSACS based on persons who consent to have their names included in the scheme during post-test counseling at the government-run free Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres across the state.

So far, more than 9,000 PLHIVs have benefited from this initiative. More importantly, according to OSAC the percentage of PLHIVs who consent to take the pension has risen from about 70 percent in May 2008, to 90 percent in December 2008.

In view of confidentiality, the HIV pension is sent as an account payee cheque to the address of the PLHIV beneficiary. Orissa’s Department for Women and Child Development – the nodal agency dealing with MBPY - has committed to cover all PLHIVs under this scheme.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

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