Rs 2,550-cr programme to increase safe behaviour among HIV victims

The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved a Rs 2,550-crore project to increase safe behaviour among the high-risk population having HIV/AIDS with the overall aim of controlling the rising HIV cases by 2017.

The national AIDS control support project will be a part of the national AIDS control programme that is being funded jointly by the Health Ministry and the World Bank in equal proportion for more than a decade.

While the government claims success in the AIDS control programme, with 57 per cent reduction in new infections and 27 per cent lowering of deaths, a section of public health workers argue that the drop is mainly because of a change in the methodology of preparing the estimate and the stabilisation reached in six high-prevalence states, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

But the disease prevalence is increasing in populous states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Punjab, West Bengal and Goa along with Delhi as the government is yet to fully assess the extent of the infection in these places.

The National AIDS Control Organisation also admits the same.

HIV has spread all over India with the 10 low prevalence states now accounting for 57 per cent of new infections while eastern India has become the worst-hit. In the last one year, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal accounted for almost one-fourth of new infections, says the government's latest data on HIV/AIDS released last year.

The rising trends of adult HIV cases and new infections observed in low-prevalence states in the north was due to migration of a large number of people to metro cities in search of work, said an official. But the estimated number of HIV-infected people in India has witnessed a steady decline from 22.52 lakh in 2007 to 20.88 lakh in 2012.

The new project aims at scaling up of prevention and intervention strategies for women sex workers, homosexuals, transgender community and injecting drug users. It will also expand the intervention strategies for truck drivers and migrant workers who play a critical role in transmitting the disease from one place to another.

Nod for nearly 21k new posts in I-T dept

The Cabinet on Thursday approved the creation of 20,751 additional posts in the Income Tax (I-T) Department, including 1,349 additional posts in the Indian Revenue Services Cadre, DHNS reports from New Delhi.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters after the meeting that the additional posts would help the department in the collection of revenue and providing better services to taxpayers. The minister has been pushing for a revamp of the I-T Department as part of his efforts to ensure quicker tax refunds and detection of high net worth individuals (HNIs) who escape the tax net.

The move will ultimately increase revenues from direct taxes. Creation of new posts at various levels has also become necessary in view of the vast expansion of the tax base. According to the finance minister, the government expects to collect an additional Rs 25,000 crore per annum after putting in place the additional manpower, which is  “woefully inadequate” for the size of the economy that India has today.

The government plans to collect over Rs 6.68 lakh crore from direct taxes in the current fiscal, up from Rs 5.65 lakh crore in the previous fiscal. An additional expenditure of Rs 449.71 crore per annum is likely to be incurred on creating additional posts and upgrading some existing posts, an official statement released after the meeting said.

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