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Testing For HIV/AIDS Compulsory For New Military Recruits

Terming the disease as "virus enemy number one", the Indian armed forces will make testing for HIV/AIDS compulsory for new recruits in all the three wings from Oct 1.

"Today the armed forces considers the HIV virus enemy number one// and, therefore, AIDS/HIV testing for all new recruits to the navy, army and the air force will be made mandatory from Oct 1," said the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, Surgeon Vice Admiral Vijay K. Singh.

"This is one of the most effective ways to keep the armed forces free from the scourge and keep it fit for combat at all times," Singh said on the sidelines of a national conference on environmental medicine at the Armed Forces Medical College here, adding that "the armed forces would use all its might to eliminate the enemy".

India is the second highest HIV-affected country in the world after South Africa.

Singh said 96 centres were operational all over the country to carry out testing on nearly 100,000 fresh recruits annually. The Armed Forces Medical Services would also set up an additional 30 testing centres, he said.

Asked about the extent of AIDS/HIV prevalence in the forces, the medical service chief, without divulging figures, said preventive methods had reduced the spread drastically.

Singh said that under the leadership of Admiral Arun Prakash, all wings of the armed forces had been campaigning to wipe out the disease from the ranks and file.

A two-and-half hour feature film "Dastak" (Knock) is being screened in all units since last year to spread awareness and has proved effective, he said.

Singh said top priority was given to administer anti-retroviral drugs to treat freshly detected HIV cases in the armed forces. "Early detection and treatment will help contain the disease," he added.

Singh said those armed forces units going abroad on various assignments and those returning home would al so be made to take HIV tests. Regular and stringent testing is being carried out in AIDS-prone areas like the northeast and border areas to combat the disease.

--IANS
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