20,000 Kashmiris will die of AIDS
27 August 2003
News Network International
SRINAGAR: Fifteen years from now on Kashmir could witness 20 thousand deaths because of AIDS. As per official estimates, forty thousand people are HIV positive in Jammu and Kashmir and by the end of 2010 the disease could end twenty thousand lives in the state. World Bank financed organisation, State Aids Control Society (SACS) has been active in the state since 1999 spending millions annually with separate allocation for the peripheral activities like 'School Aids', a programme to make students aware about the deadly disease. However, J&K lags far behind Himachal Pradesh, a neighbouring state with lesser population. Knowledgeable sources said Himachal has 80 Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centres (VCTC) as against only 12 in Jammu and Kashmir. 'These centres existed prior to the establishment of Aids Control Society,' said a highly placed source pleading anonymity, a GK news report said. 'If the situation is such that 40 thousand people are infected with HIV virus and still the government is deluded by a hoarding in front of Civil Secretariat reading the highlights of AIDS in ineligible format with the name of SACS in bold letters,' Dr Aqila said adding the corrupt officials have discovered a new and safe avenue to earn laurels selling the specter of AIDS and waiting for the catastrophe to knock at Kashmir. Dr H N Kar, Deputy Director (Projects) in SACS, said the Society gets the annual outlay of Rs 3.5 Cr while Rs 40 lakh are released by the World Bank to run School AIDS Programme across the state involving volunteers from the education department particularly the students. After eight to ten years, Kar adds, J&K will have 12000 full blown AIDS cases. The projected estimates suggest that after fifteen years AIDS would kill around twenty thousand people in the state. 'As per the mathematically projected estimates, there could be 40 thousand HIV positive cases across the state,' says HOD Social and Preventive Medicine Dr Muneer Masoodi adding 39 people fell to the disease including 11 from Kashmir Valley with over 600 HIV positive persons counting their days. 'In our state neither STD clinics are seen functional nor the handful of VCTCs are able to detect HIV through their crude ways of testing,' says Dr Aqila. Isn't it strange that despite the standing ruling of Supreme Court, most of the health centres including some of the premier health institutes care a hoot for the testing of blood prior to its transfusion, she asks. According to the knowledgeable sources, the testing in the state is conducted by TRIDOT method which is believed as most crude way of testing a suspect for HIV as it can't bring the credible results unless the patient has been carrying the virus for atleast three to six months. Curiously enough, the sources said, a costly and comparatively effective apparatus ELISA lies untouched in Lal Ded hospital where hundreds of blood units are being transfused daily. 'This is strange. Despite huge funding for the project, state government is yet to commission PCR ( Polymerace Chain Reaction) for the credible and quick results while testing for AIDS. As against TRIDOT and ELISA, PCR detects antigens ( virus affecting the antibodies) while the former methods detect affected antibodies', she says.