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Specialized Clinics For Manipur's AIDS Patients

Hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS in Manipur have hope at hand with an international aid agency deciding to set up specialised clinics for their care and treatment//. The Nobel prize-winning Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Manipur government to provide healthcare services, particularly to those living with HIV/AIDS.

The Dutch chapter of the MSF would be involved in the proposed healthcare project in Manipur's southern district of Churachandpur, about 65 km from state capital Imphal.

"It is our intention to support the existing (anti-HIV/AIDS activities in Churachandpur district," Ria Temmerman, project coordinator of MSF in Manipur, said in a statement.

"Due to the law and order situation, many rural health facilities are in a vulnerable state."

The northeast has been declared one of India's high-risk zones with close to 100,000 people infected with HIV. The number of HIV/AIDS patients in India is believed to be over 5.1 million.

Manipur alone accounts for about 20,000 HIV-positives although unofficial estimates put the figure in the state at closer to 35,000. The district of Churachandpur is the worst hit by HIV/AIDS in Manipur.

The aid organisation would open a treatment facility for general diseases, including sexual transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS in Churachandpur, besides offering testing services, prevention, counselling, care and anti-retroviral treatment.

"We would also be providing basic health services, including to mothers and children, in four clinics," the statement said.

"Treatment and testing facilities are still insufficient and we would like to cover part of that gap as thousands of patients are in need of immediate treatment, which is minimally available here."

Healthcare facilities in Manipur are far from satisfactory with doctors and paramedics scared to ventur e to remote areas as the state is plagued by insurgency and ethnic conflict.

The authorities fear that HIV/AIDS may further spread because of the northeastern region's acute drug problem.

India's northeast lies on the edge of the heroin-producing "Golden Triangle" of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand and independent estimates have put the number of regular intravenous drug users in the region at up to 300,000 -- a key cause of HIV infection here.

"More than promiscuity it is the sharing of needles among intravenous drug users in the northeast that is responsible for spreading HIV/AIDS at an alarming rate," said S.I. Ahmed, a frontline anti-AIDS campaigner in the region.

--IANS
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