Hyderabad: As COVID-19 adds to the woes of the transgender community everywhere, Hyderabad's Rashmi (name changed) undergoes ill-treatment at a local hospital.
An already human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) +ve transwoman, Rashmi is admitted in the COVID ward of Gandhi Hospital. The doctor has advised her to consume hot water regularly, to ensure her throat is healthy. In a time when family members are shying away from attending to their own who suffer from COVID, Rashmi is unable to find anyone in the hospital to provide her hot water.
Speaking to this correspondent, Rashmi said, "I requested a nurse for hot water, but she denied and said they don't have any facility for the same."
After looking for hot water for more than a day and consistently requesting nurses and ward boys, Rashmi then approached an NGO, Helping Hand Foundation. Volunteers from the organisation provided her with two flasks of water on Saturday, 1st August.
"This brought a sense of happiness smile back on her face, we promised to get the flask refilled with hot water every day till she needs it," Said Mujtaba Askari of Helping Hand Foundation.
Rashmi had tested COVID+ve on 27th July, post which the hospital advised her to follow home quarantine. The police station of her home jurisdiction was informed of the same. While the police personnel had informed the accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers, due to confusion in the jurisdiction, they did not come through with aid.
She soon started witnessing peeling of skin tissues while at-home isolation. The doctor in-charge then advised Rashmi on phone that she shift to the hospital as her lesions would require dressing.
"Only recently having begun her Anti-Retro Viral(ART), she is immunocompromised. The government doctor advised her on phone to immediately get hospitalized for daily treatment of her fast-spreading bacterial lesions. He told us that the infection can spread to her bone and bloodstream and cause blood poisoning if there was any delay in hospitalization," said Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, a transgender activist.
Even as a transwoman, she is staying in a ward meant for male COVID-19+ve patients. "My identity card mention me as a male. So the hospital shifted me to a male ward. They are treating HIV+ve and COVID+ve person like me in the same ward with other HIV-ve COVID+ve male patients" Rashmi added.
The transgender community filed a writ petition in the Telangana High Court on April 22, for food security, safety and medical support for their community. The court then directed that the government ensure separate COVID wards and other facilities for transgenders in state hospitals.
The Telangana government gave the order for the same on July 2. “All superintendents of Government Hospitals treating COVID-19 patients are hereby directed to take special care of transgender patients who are admitted to their hospitals with COVID-19. The superintendent is also directed to create a special ward for treating Transgender patients diagnosed to be COVID-19 and treat them in special wards," said the order.
“There is no separate ward for a transgender person in the hospitals, the safety and security for our community should be assured by the authorities,” said Vyjayanti.
With a massive hit on income due to the pandemic, the transgender community has become more vulnerable. Many in the community are homeless, affected by street sexual violence, and are dependent on sex work. As a result, they get infected with HIV. Most transgender persons being dependent on begging and sex work don't have government ID proofs.
"She was supposed to get her Anti-Retro Viral (ART) therapy drug for HIV treatment, in March. However, the pandemic imposed a lockdown on 24th March hindered any possibility of therapy. She started her therapy in July in a government hospital. Now being infected with COVID, her health is deteriorating. We want her to get back safe and sound," said Vyjayanti.