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Kashmir Grapples with Growing AIDS

ough the AIDS awareness programme for defence personnel does not come under the ambit of the JKSAPCS, it has been conducting programmes for army, air force and police officers, jawans and their families.

Official figures have, however, recorded only 37 deaths out of the 95 full-blown reported cases here though the real figure is suspected to be higher.

In a survey conducted by international NGO FXB, nearly 85 people infected with HIV/AIDS were found to have died in Jammu's Hiranagar village block alone - which contradicts the claims of the JKSAPCS.

An independent study conducted by Jammu-based clinical immunologist Anil Mahajan notes that HIV/AIDS in the state is no longer a low prevalence disease. Paramilitary forces, truck drivers and housewives were the major affected groups.

Most deaths have occurred among the rural poor with infected locals working outside the state to support their families. Several cases of stigmatisation against the HIV/AIDS patients have also been reported. Unfortunately, no organised care facility exists for the patients.

The Government Medical College in Srinagar and SKIMS only provide patients free medicines for opportunistic infections. While there were only three Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres (VCTCs) earlier in the state, eight more have been established recently, including one in the Leh district hospital.

A lack of committed NGOs and voluntary organisations in the state that would have otherwise augmented the awareness drive and helped in implementing the programmes is compounding the problem.

"It's very difficult approaching people in diverse areas with the message of HIV/AIDS with such little resources," said S. Vani, a social worker.

With only six local NGOs working along with JKSAPCS, the fight against AIDS in Jammu and Kasmhir, like militancy, is set to be a long drawn one.



Source-Newswise
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