Start-ups help HIV patients access affordable healthcare


For 32-year-old Anand Natrajan* the biggest shocker of his life came when he realised he had tested positive for HIV. Since he lived in a village, 32 km from Krishnagiri, every visit to the private hospital was agony. Detection, followed by shame and ostracization was what he feared. Plagued by many doubts – Will my […]


Stasis labs aims for affordable healthcare, raises $5 mnFor 32-year-old Anand Natrajan* the biggest shocker of his life came when he realised he had tested positive for HIV.

Since he lived in a village, 32 km from Krishnagiri, every visit to the private hospital was agony. Detection, followed by shame and ostracization was what he feared.

Plagued by many doubts – Will my children get HIV? What if I get weaker and cannot work? Anand is not alone, there are many like him who want such questions answered. Coming to their rescue are a host of startups, which offer hope and promises to improve the manageability of such conditions.

Online pharmacists are proving useful to such patients, who have chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, HIV, asthma, cancer as buying online has its plus points like bulk orders, discounts of 15%-20% to manage their daily dependence on drugs.

But for patients with HIV, it helps them overcome social stigma, as their purchases remain a secret.

“There is no human interface, which is a huge comfort factor to some people. We cater to many remote villages in India and people can order in bulk for three-five months and a discreet package arrives at their doorsteps. We also send out refill reminders two-three weeks ahead of time,” Pradeep Dadha, CEO, Netmeds, which got $50 million in funding from a group of investors, including US-based investment firm OrbiMed and MAPE Advisory.

Apart from pharmacists, telemedicine startups like Rxpress, Karma, Olito, Quadia Technoligies are also helping people with HIV access affordable healthcare from remote, rural locations. “Ostracisation is a huge fear and with the increase of telemedicine platforms, people are able to better access doctors,” said Jagdeep Gambhir, Founder of Rajasthan-based Karma Healthcare, which got undisclosed funding from Austria-based Ennovent Impact Investment Holding.

“We ensure privacy and boost self-confidence. Apart from medical problems, people also want a morale boost – Will I able to work? Will I grow weaker? What if I had an open wound and used a towel?” said Madhur Gopal, CEO, Rxpress, which has 12,000 registered customers.

In rural areas, since patients travel long distances for doctor’s consultations, sometimes there is a gap of 6-7 months before the next visit. “Patients need to be educated on the need for strict medical adherence and the side-effects of anti-retrovirals. Since there is a lot of conflicting information about HIV/AIDS online, patients find it useful that they can come to us,” said Gopal.

Many patients confuse HIV with communicable diseases like jaundice and chicken pox. So the around-the-clock availability of doctors is another need. At Pune-based Olito, Chief Executive Rajesh Kumar Singh said that they get the most number of calls in the night and the early hours of the morning.

Source: Times of India

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