Partial awakening

Published: Sunday 31 August 2003

The powers that be finally seem to be alive to the AIDS threat, even envisaging the involvement of policymakers in stemming the scourge. How exactly they will play this role has, however, not been spelt out.

That the disease poses an unprecedented public health challenge was unanimously recognised at the country's first-ever National Convention of Elected Representatives on HIV/AIDS. Led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, more than 1,000 delegates -- comprising members of parliament, members of legislative assemblies and zila parishad presidents -- attended the two-day meet in Delhi. A declaration was adopted wherein the political leadership agreed to promote multi-sectoral collaborations among non-governmental organisations (NGOs), business institutions, religious bodies, local communities and the government. Politicians were given the responsibility of advocacy and guiding response in prevention in their constituencies.

But the nitty-gritty of the matter was conveniently skipped over. "This is not the first time that politicians are discussing the problem. It remains to be seen how they implement the plans," remarked I S Gilada, director, People's Health Organisation, a Mumbai-based NGO. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation, the number of HIV positive cases in the country has rapidly risen from 3.97 million in 2001 to 4.58 million in 2002.

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