24 students graduate as Asia’s first HIV workers

June 8th, 2009 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) It was like a dream come true for 23-year-old Shiraj Ali, a physiotherapist, to become a certified HIV healthcare worker. He was among the first batch of 24 students who Monday graduated as HIV Medics in Asia.
“I lost my best friend to AIDS as he was too shy to share his HIV status with anyone. That very day, I took a pledge to work for the HIV positive people and focus on removing the stigma from our society. I came to know about the course and joined it to fulfil my commitment,” an elated Ali told IANS.

The 24 students were Monday conferred the HIV Medics degree by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) during a convocation held at the American Center here.

The HIV medics are para-professional health care workers trained to assist clinicians in the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV.

The programme was launched by the US based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) last year to train people as HIV health care workers in the country.

“It is the first time in Asia where students volunteers enrolled under universities are trained as HIV workers. The HIV Medics will act as first line of support to doctors, nurses and help in providing psychological support to patients,” IGNOU pro-vice chancellor Om Prakash Mishra said at the felicitation ceremony.

“With the dearth of human resource in healthcare sector in India, the IGNOU plans to expand the course on a large basis,” he added.

The students received a rigorous three-months training at the School of Social Work, IGNOU as well as clinical skill training at various community care homes in Delhi.

“The are trained to draw blood, dispense medications and provide medication adherence counselling and HIV testing. They provide initial patient screenings, complete patient histories and refer patient to physicians for physical examination,” said Prof Gracious Thomas, head of School of Social Work.

“Shifting of these tasks to the HIV Medics frees up physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals for other tasks. They are likely to improve quality of care for HIV patients,” Thomas added.

The HIV Medic training is designed for students with no prior medical training or experience and with a high school certificate.

“The training programme is intensive and covers 12 weeks of full-time study. The HIV Medics are often HIV positive themselves but their identity is not disclosed,” said Dr Chinkholal Thangsing, Asia Pacific bureau chief, AHF Global.

“The course is sponsored by AHF and students also draw a stipend of Rs.5,000 during the training. Most of the students are placed with hospital and NGOs to work with HIV infected people,” he added.

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