Bihar in a state of slumber

HIV CASES


And this is not a finding of any non-governmental organisation (NGO). The government’s own report, prepared by the Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS), shows that from a meagre two cases detected in 2001, the figure has shot up to 23,763 till August 2009. A quantum leap by any proportion!

Even though the situation is alarming, the Bihar government has yet to wake up from its deep slumber. In the last so many years, it has failed to appoint a full-time project director (PD) to head the Bihar State AIDS Control Society. The BSACS has seen seven PDs in the last three years, but a majority of them have held the post as an additional charge. For instance, the present incumbent Ravi Parmar holds two additional charges as additional secretary (health) as well as executive director of Bihar State Health Society.

The functioning of the Bihar State AIDS Control Society could be gauged from the fact that against the sanctioned strength of 69 personnel, the BSACS has just 22 staff at its central office in Patna. No wonder, the phase III of the National AIDS Control Programme (2007-12) has remained a non-starter. “The implementation of AIDS control programme in Bihar has gone for a toss,” said Alok Kumar, who has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Patna high court blaming the BSACS for the rise in cases of the dreadful disease in the state.

Court intervention

Taking cognisance of the matter, the division bench of the high court comprising Acting Chief Justice Shiv Kirti Singh and Justice Shyam Kishore Sharma has asked the Centre, state government and the Bihar State AIDS Control Society to file a reply, in an affidavit, about the steps taken for effective enforcement of programmes to check the spread of HIV+ in Bihar.

The Union health ministry, meanwhile, filed an affidavit submitting that out of Rs 13.41 crore sanctioned to Bihar for AIDS control programme in 2007-08, only Rs 10.21 crore was utilised. In the financial year 2008-09, only a sum of Rs 9.28 crore could be used out of sanctioned amount of Rs 23.4 crore.

Little wonder, Bihar today has 4,572 full-blown AIDS patients, while 669 persons have already succumbed to it. Some doctors and NGOs working in this field aver that the actual figures of HIV patients in the state could be three to four times more than the official data. “The social stigma attached to the HIV still prevents the patients from declaring their status,” argued Dr Diwakar Tejaswi, medical director of the Public Awareness for Healthful Approach for Living (PAHAL). While many such patients were secretly undergoing treatment, others were suffering in silence, he said.

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