03 March 2011
By Sanjeev Shivadekar
The agencies are the government–managed Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), the BMC–controlled Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDAC), and the NGO Avert.
A senior health department official said: "In a state where more than 75% of AIDS sufferers are in the 25–50 age group, there is need for a committed body to address the issue. An apex body will avoid triplication of the state’s anti–AIDS programme, which will ultimately benefit patients."
Public health minister Suresh Shetty admitted that there are directives from Naco to bring the three agencies under one roof. "The idea behind forming an apex body is to ensure better and smooth functioning of the agencies to curb the spread of AIDS," he said.
"The formation of the apex body would not affect the existing structure of the agencies or their programme. The body will act as the nodal agency to monitor the functioning of the agencies."
Welcoming the Naco directive, a former bureaucrat who at present works with a city–based NGO, said: "Those working in the filed of AIDS procure medicines, kits and other material required to treat infected people. But the purchases most often suit the interests of pharmaceutical firms. An apex anti–AIDS body will look into issues like this."
However, there are dissenting voices, among them the MDAC. Dr S S Kudalkar, project director, MDAC, said: "Mumbai is a unique city and has its own set of problems, which cannot be compared to those of other metro cities. Also, according to the BMC Act, the responsibility for citizens’ health lies with the municipal corporation. Hence, the concept of having an apex body is not feasible."
Meanwhile, in a meeting at Vidhan Bhavan last week, the Maharashtra Legislators’ Forum on AIDS unanimously decided that all MLAs will each contribute Rs 1 lakh from their funds towards AIDS combating programmes.
"The money raised by the forum will be used to intensify the fight against the disease in the state," said Shetty. The meeting was attended by assembly speaker Dilip Walse–Patil, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and leaders of the opposition parties.