HIV patients demand pension and free bus service in Himachal
Even as the future of National Aids Control Programme (NACP) in Himachal Pradesh remains uncertain due to the indecisiveness of the central government to fund the programme, social organisations have demanded pension and free travel in state-run buses for the HIV/Aids patients.punjab Updated: Apr 03, 2017 12:34 IST
Even as the future of National Aids Control Programme (NACP) in Himachal Pradesh remains uncertain due to the indecisiveness of the central government to fund the programme, social organisations have demanded pension and free travel in state-run buses for the HIV/Aids patients.
There are about 8,091 HIV-positive persons in the state as identified by the Himachal Pradesh State Aids Control Society (HPSCAS).
Of these, 3,172 patients are being treated at different centres set up by the health department in collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These organisations have demanded free travel for the patients so that they could easily visit hospitals and Anti-Retroviral Therapy Centres in different parts of the state.
"I am a retired soldier. I can afford my nutrition and travel expenses, but all HIV+ patients cannot do the same," said Sohan Lal (name changed) who heads an organisation taking care of people living with Aids. "The government should also give some sort of financial assistance or pension to persons affected with HIV for meeting their nutrition needs,"
Lal said while addressing a workshop in Shimla on Wednesday. The workshop was organised by MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child, New Delhi, in collaboration with the Himachal Pradesh Aids Control Society and Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association.
Meanwhile, with the central government changing the ratio of its share in several Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), and its share still being uncertain, there is growing fear among the social organisations and the health department over the future of the NACP, even though prevalence of Aids is low in the hill state.
The NACP in Himachal is run in close association with over three dozen NGOs. The central government withholding grants has already affected the NACP in the state as dues of several such bodies are yet to be cleared.
The HPSACS has only received `4.5 crore for its general spending, and `1.5 crore is yet to come.
Director state health services and project director, State AIDS Control Society, DS Gurung said funds crunch had yet not hit the services being provided to HIV/AIDS patients, but payments to NGOs had been stalled. "There is no clarity over the funding pattern. We are waiting for amount to be released by the Centre," he said.
Gurung also said earlier the funding under the National Health Mission was in 90:10 ratio, while there was 100% central funding for the NACP.
Sex workers remain on the back-burner
There are nearly 10,000 sex workers in Himachal Pradesh. The HPSACS has identified 6,900 sex workers of which 46 have been tested positive for HIV. However, the government initiative of bringing sex workers into the mainstream has seemingly not drawn much response. So far only 560 sex workers have been given vocational training in various courses on beauty, cooking and tailoring.