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Maharashtra shows way on HIV

Maharashtra becomes first state to prepare a workplace policy on affected people, reports Uma Upadhyaya.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 03:11 IST

The AIDS bomb is ticking on India and Maharashtra appears to have heeded the warning. The state government will soon become the first in the country to form a workplace policy to shield people affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from discrimination.

The new policy is likely to be announced on December 1 - World AIDS Day - at a function in Nashik. Said state health secretary Vijay Satbir Singh, “The policy will concentrate on non-discrimination of HIV infected employees in the matters of recruitment, transfers and promotions.

As of now, we are introducing the policy for all government departments. In the next few months, we will also ask the private sector to adopt the policy ”. According to the policy, authorities who know about the HIV positive status of an employee would be required to keep it confidential, said Singh. Many countries including the United States and Canada have a workplace policy on HIV.

It is to be noted that government departments, especially the police, have a large number of HIV infected personnel. Last year, the Mumbai police admitted that hundreds of their employees had tested HIV positive during an annual health check-up. More than 450 officers and constables of the 40,000-strong force were declared HIV-infected.

Also, a state level council headed by the chief minister with members including ministers of the concerned department, social activists and NGOs will be formed. “This council would hold meetings and take high level policy decisions regarding HIV prevention, treatment and rehabilitation”, added Singh.

Around 300 integrated counseling and testing centers would be added at government hospitals and dispensaries across the state. “We are also coming up with a definite plan for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of cases where a child is infected through the mother. We could set up community care centers for such children”, he said.

According to Prakash Sabde, project director of Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society, there are around 6.5 lakh estimated HIV positive people across the state out of which around 2500 are children infected since birth. “Though there is not much variation this year, there are areas with high prevalence rates like Sangli and Chandrapur”, he said.

Email uma.upadhyaya@hindustantimes.com