Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said ministries should make various schemes more accessible to people with HIV/AIDS, from employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme to more access to women and children to Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
Addressing the national convention of zila parishad chairpersons and mayors on HIV and AIDS, the prime minister said ministries “should also have an ‘HIV sensitive’ policy and programme so that the marginalised populations infected and affected by HIV/AIDS are not denied the benefits of these schemes”.
“Linkages should be made between the HIV and AIDS programme and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to facilitate employment of HIV positive persons. Nutritional needs of HIV positive people, specially women and children, should be tackled by linking them with ICDS and other developmental schemes,” he said.
Singh noted that the challenge of India’s HIV-AIDS policy is to “maintain a fine balance between prevention and treatment strategies”.
“Some of the key priority areas will be preventing new infections in hitherto low prevalence states while consolidating efforts in the high prevalence states,” he added.
There are an estimated 24 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS in India. The prime minister said that the government’s AIDS control programme has been “successful in being able to reduce new HIV/AIDS infections by 50 percent in the last ten years.”
“We have managed to keep our prevalence low with only 0.3 percent adult prevalence and an epidemic concentrated largely among high risk groups,” he said.
However, Manmohan Singh said that there were still a lot of challenges, from reaching out to a large population of young people to ensuring there is no stigma or discrimination towards HIV affected people.
“No child should be denied admission in schools and colleges because he or she is afflicted with HIV or because his or her parents are afflicted with this disease. We must ensure that no person loses his or her employment because of HIV. We must see that there is no social ostracisation. We should ensure that women are not doubly stigmatised,” said the prime minister.