The entry of Bel-Air into the foray of HIV/AIDS was not accidental. It was natural result of the TB/AIV co-epidemic scenario where the first HIV patients developing TB reported to the reputed TB treatment place in Panchgani. However what is unique is the courage displayed by Bel-Air in addressing this most challenging crisis in the health care scenario of the country. At a time when there was wide spread fear, huge stigma and discrimination, Bel-Air demonstrated a tremendous strength in accepting these patients. Bel-Air went out of the country to bring expertise and knowledge to manage the epidemic when nothing was available in the country. Bel-Air introduced and advocated care and treatment and the most effective tool for prevention when Government of India had not even developed a strategy for care. Later Bel-Air helped the Government of India to develop the guidelines in the National Programme both for treatment and care. This was possible due to the aggressive strategies used by Bel-Air to enlist the technical support of the resources available in the world like CDC (Center for Disease Control, Atlanta – USA, the premier Federal Government Agency of USA for infectious diseases), I-TECH (International Training and Evaluation Center on HIV, Seattle, Washington, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Nursing, USA.)
Again the vision of Bel-Air is not only to provide solace to a few thousands who reach Bel-Air, but to be a model for the country to develop its capacities.
The atmosphere, the excellent care and treatment provided to the HIV/AIDS patients started attracting many patients from across Maharashtra and nearby states. Hence NACO sanctioned the first and the biggest Community Care Center in India at Bel-Air for 50 beds in 2000. Bel-Air has been hailed as one of the best HIV/AIDS treatment centers in the country. Even Dr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India visited the hospital in 2003.
Today, it is one of the leading centres in the country for the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. Till date we have admitted and treated over 27000 patients. These patients are treated for their various opportunistic infections most of which are acutely severe. An average 50 HIV patients take treatment from Bel-Air daily on OPD basis. Patients from from 20 districts of Maharashtra and four districts of Karanataka regularly visit Bel-Air for treatment. The hospital has a very high success rate in treatment and is considered as an example of friendly environment and a place which successfully tackled stigma and discrimination.
The Government of India and NACO had accepted its contribution by involving Bel-Air in the design team of NACP-III and CCM of GFATM. The Director of Bel-Air Hospital had been nominated as Chairperson of the Technical Resource Group (TRG) for Community Care Centers of NACO by Government of India.
With the vast experience in dealing with HIV/AIDS patients, the large number of patients admitted in the hospital at any given point of time, Bel-Air now has evolved into a major training center for Health Care Providers in HIV/AIDS management, specially doctors and nurses. Since 2003 Bel-Air with funding from AVERT Society started training doctors mainly from Satara District in the management of HIV/. NACO has selected Bel-Air as a training center for CCC nurses in Maharashtra in addition to CBCI and HLFFPT run CCC in 9 northern states in India. The Government of Maharashtra has identified Bel-Air hospital as a training site for their care & support related trainings of doctors and nurses from Government Hospital for their six districts of Maharashtra. In effect the transferring our experience, expertise and knowledge to the Health Care workers across India will help in enhancing the care and support provided to HIV/AIDS patients across the country.
The United Nation’s (UN) Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis (GFATM) under Round 7 is implementing a project through Indian Nursing Council which aims on strengthening and capacity building of 55 nurses training institutes and 90,000 nurses on HIV/AIDS and ART within a period of 5 years (2008-2013). The project is being implemented by Indian Nursing Council (INC) in co-ordination with National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). GFATM has now extended the project for a further period of 18 months for training on TB. Fr.Tomy was instrumental in getting this massive grant of 33 million for India which is the single largest grant given to any country by GFATM.
Bel-Air is the Sub Recipient for conducting this programs in 10 Catholic Colleges from across India. During the tenure of the project all the colleges were provided with funds to conduct trainings for staff nurses on HIV/AIDS and its management. Many of the faculties of each of the colleges selected were given special training by INC as trainers to conduct training for staff nurses on HIV/AIDS and its management. The project has successfully achieved its targets of training over 90,000 nurses from across the country. The Catholic Colleges under Bel-Air SR have conducted a total of 682 trainings and trained a total of 22,761 nurses. The nurses trained were mainly from government hospital & Health Care Centers of the districts in and around the colleges. Bel-Air College of Nursing on its own has conducted a total of 143 trainings and 4392 nurses participated