Health Ministry justifies merging Aids control body with NRHM

Health Ministry justifies merging Aids control body with NRHM

Amid public concern that winding up the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) would compromise on controlling the spread of HIV, Health Ministry officials have given their assurance that the programme will not be curtailed and will continue with the same efficacy.

“There will be no change in the programme and its budget. The Aids control programme will run under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) like the tuberculosis or malaria control programme. It is only an administrative step,” Union Health Secretary Lov Verma told Deccan Herald. The department's budget has been increased to Rs 1,785 crore from last fiscal’s revised estimate of Rs 1,500 crore.

In the first step towards the merger with the NRHM, department of Aids control secretary V K Subburaj was shifted to the National Commission on Schedule Caste a week ago. Subsequently, an additional secretary was given charge of the department.

“It used to be like that traditionally,” Verma said. Activists, however, are crying foul apprehending the merger, saying it would mean a shift in focus from the HIV/Aids programme. At present, the country has an estimated 21-lakh HIV-infected patients.

“India has been able to make progress on HIV because of this exclusive programme. If the department of Aids control is dismantled at this juncture, the decision will boomerang and HIV can come back severely,” said Manoj Pardeshi from the National Coalition of People Living with HIV.

Since the national Aids control programme began in the 1992, it was managed by NACO, which got a separate department a decade ago and remained an autonomous body under the Health Ministry.

In 2012, however, the Planning Commission, in a steering committee report for the 12th plan, proposed NACO’s integration with the NRHM.

The move to merge the NACO with the NRHM is considered to be in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda of “minimum government and maximum governance”.

“It gels with the Narendra Modi government's idea of convergence in the government, just like the department of overseas affairs was brought under the Ministry of External Affairs,” an official said.

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