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The fight continues

NEW Bureau

HIV/AIDS epidemic in the north-eastern states are still spread by intravenous drug-users who pass it on to their partners by having unprotected sex. By 1987 the National AIDS Control Programme discovered that the trend had become very popular in Mizoram as well.  Out of the nearly two lakhs IDUs users in India, 50,800 are from Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya. It has been found that over 20% of them are HIV+ solely due to sharing of contaminated needles.

After the first cases emerged in 1986, the Government of India established the National AIDS Committee within the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This formed the basis for the current apex Government of India body for HIV surveillance, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). The majority of HIV surveillance data collected by the NACO is done through annual unlinked anonymous testing of prenatal clinic (or antenatal clinics) and sexually transmitted infection clinic attendees. Annual reports of HIV surveillance are freely available on NACO’s website. The first National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) was implemented over seven years (1992–1999), focused on monitoring HIV infection rates among risk populations in selected urban areas. The second phase ran between 1999 and 2006 and the original program was expanded at state level, focusing on targeted interventions for high-risk groups and preventive interventions among the general population. A National Council on AIDS was formed during this phase, consisting of 31 ministries and chaired by the Prime Minister. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has increased the number of centres providing free Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) from 54 to 91 centres with another 9 more centres also getting operational soon. All the 91 centres have specially appointed and trained doctors, counsellors and laboratory technicians to help initiate patients on ART and follow them up regularly. The ART is a combination of three potent drugs, which is being given to the persons with advanced stage of AIDS. Although these drugs do not cure HIV infection, they suppress multiplication of the virus and reduce the number of opportunistic infections thereby improving the quality of life and prolonging the life span. Apart from providing free treatment, all the ART centres provide counselling to the infected persons so that they maintain regularity of their medication. Continuity is the most important factor for the long term effectiveness of the ART drugs as disruption can lead to drug resistance. At present 40,000 are on ART, which are expected to go up. All these centres have a plan to ensure that patients take their medicines regularly and are followed up, in case of default, while maintaining their confidentiality.

Each State AIDS Prevention and Control Society has a governing body, its highest policy-making structure, headed either by the minister in charge of health or the chief secretary. It has on board representatives from key government departments, the civil society, trade and industry, private health sector and PLHA networks, who meet twice a year. It approves new policy initiatives, annual plan and budget, appoints statutory auditors and accepts the annual audit report. For better financial and operational efficiency, administrative and financial powers are vested in the Executive Committee and the Programme Director.

Functions of SACS are:

  • Medical and public health services
  • Communication and social sector services and
  • Administration, planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, finance and procurement.
  • With the setting up of District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit under NACP-III, there will be increased emphasis on improving coordination functions at state level in supporting the programme implementation at the district level

Project Sunrise launched by Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J.P. Nadda in February, 2016 aims at bringing the people living with HIV/AIDS into the national mainstream and create more awareness about the disease in these states. In the North East, it was implemented in addition to the existing projects of the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) for the prevention of AIDS in the eight North-Eastern states. In addition to the existing projects, the project was launched with an aim to create responsiveness about the disease in the north-east states.

Key highlights

  • The project was aimed at creating more awareness about the disease in these NE states.
  • It was implemented in 20 districts of the eight states including four districts of Manipur- Imphal East, Bishnupur, Ukhrul and Churachandpur.
  • It will cover one lakh people suffering with HIV/AIDS the government will provide them treatment and care facilities free of cost.
  • NACO will unswervingly reassign its funding to State AIDS Control Societies as a substitute of the existing system for financial support through state governments.

 

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