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Discrimination against AIDS patients will be curbed

Sunday, Nov 19, 2006

CHENNAI: A bill will be introduced in the budget session of Parliament to prevent discrimination against HIV/AIDS affected persons in places of education, work and treatment, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said on Saturday.

HIV/AIDS was also a developmental, social and economic problem and the Centre was mainstreaming its agenda to counter the stigma and discrimination faced by the infected.

The Minister was inaugurating the Third International Inter-Faith Workshop on HIV-AIDS — Stigma and Discrimination, organised by the India Inter-Faith Coalition on HIV/AIDS and The Voluntary Health, Education and Rural Development Society here.

Dr. Ramadoss said India was the first country to have the Prime Minister chairing the National AIDS Council, with all Cabinet Ministers being asked to spend a portion of their budget in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Out of the 5.2 million estimated HIV/AIDS cases in the country, only 1.25 million were known cases. About 57 per cent of the affected were from rural areas, 40 per cent of them women. About 86 per cent of infections were sexually transmitted. The highest risk group was the 600 million youth population, which had to be safeguarded.

Rs. 10,000 crore for third phase

About Rs. 10,000 crore would be made available for the third phase of the National AIDS Control Project. Around one lakh condom vending machines would be installed in public places.

Drug abusers vulnerable

The increasing number of drug abusers was also vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and the problem was now prevalent in cities such as Chandigarh, Chennai and New Delhi. A safe needle exchange programme would be implemented in northeast Chennai soon.

Supriya Sahu, Project Director, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, said Tamil Nadu was the only State where the HIV/AIDS growth rate showed a downtrend. The prevalence had come down from one to 0.5 per cent. A programme for screening all children with HIV/AIDS would be completed by the month-end to ensure that no child was left out of the care givingprocess.

Robert M. Clay, director, USAID, New Delhi, said the political will to fight the epidemic had increased in recent times all over the world and societies were now more open about the disease.

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