13 October 2011
Himachal AIDS Control Society has been facing a scarcity of nearly 50,000 syringes for free collection of blood samples for HIV tests
After condoms, it is now disposable syringes that are in short supply in Himachal Pradesh, severely hitting the state's AIDS control programme.
For over three months, the Himachal AIDS Control Society has been facing a huge shortage of syringes meant for free collection of blood samples for HIV tests. For the time being, the society has been forced to borrow syringes from state-run hospitals.
Officials in the AIDS control society say its 50 centres across the state were facing a scarcity of nearly 50,000 syringes. They said the state had not procured the syringes for six months.
The society's annual requirement is over 100,000 syringes of 5 ml. The funds are provided by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
Health Minister Rajeev Bindal told IANS that arrangements had been made to overcome the shortage.
"We have made emergency arrangements by directing hospitals to supply the syringes to the AIDS control society's centres on priority. The process for its procurement is on," Bindal said.
Health officials said the shortage had badly hit the 50 integrated counselling and testing centres (ICTCs).
"Many people, mainly from the weaker sections, are coming daily for screening of blood, but due to shortage of syringes we are not able to draw samples," said a doctor, working in an ICTC centre in Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital in Shimla, requesting anonymity.
Earlier, the AIDS control society had no condoms in its stocks meant for free distribution among high-risk groups. It borrowed five lakh condoms from Punjab in July. The state's annual share of condoms - usually 35-40 lakh - comes from NACO.
The state has 5,198 HIV-positive people, of whom 1,401 have AIDS. The number of cases is higher in Hamirpur, Mandi and Kangra districts.
Bindal said due to awareness campaigns, the HIV infection rate had declined in the state from 2.4 percent in 2007 to 0.8 percent this year. The state has a population of 68 lakh.
To screen more HIV high-risk groups, the state will shortly have 50 government accredited testing centres in the private sector.
A state Health Department spokesperson said that as per the guidelines of NACO, the private parties opting to function as HIV testing centres would have to follow its terms and conditions.
"The private parties will enter into a memorandum of understanding with the state's AIDS control society to run the facility for counselling and HIV testing. These private ICTCs will then be certified by NACO," he said.
The state government has urged the central government to start a pension scheme for HIV infected and AIDS patients.
Bindal said the state would consider providing employment to AIDS patients under the rural employment scheme and 12 such patients had been provided jobs in the government sector by the state.
He said no case of HIV or AIDS had been reported from the tribal Lahaul-Spiti district, the largest in area.
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