Workshop on prevention and control of HIV

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NewZNew (Chandigarh) : National AIDS Control Organisation here today held a workshop on Enhancing Partnership between Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Societies organisation for HIV prevention and control. The workshop was attended by above 80 representatives including Officers of National AIDS Control Organisation, Govt of India, Department of Home Affairs, Law Enforcement agencies including Narcotics Control Bureau & Police, Civil Society Organisations and State AIDS Control Societies of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

Mr. Navreet Singh Kang, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt of India said that the HIV prevalence among injecting drug users in Punjab is as high as 21.10% which is higher than the National prevalence among IDUs. Similarly Chandigarh (7.20%) has also reported slightly higher than national average. He stated that the harm reduction services for IDUs which advocates for Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme (NSP) and Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST) are being implemented by the respective State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) in these states and the same needs to be strengthened and expanded so that every drug user can be reached. For this, it is very important that State AIDS Control Societies and law enforcement agencies work in close collaboration so that maximum people can be reached and be benefitted from the harm reduction strategy.

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Mr. Jagpal Singh Sandhu, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Govt. of Punjab lauded the role of health department in containing the HIV epidemic in the State. He said that the role of police forces should not be restricted to the punitive aspect only, but it should also play an active role in the rehabilitation of the drug users. While addressing the senior police personnel from Punjab, Chandigarh and Haryana he stated that Govt. will initiate district level sensitisation meetings to take the process forward.

Mr. Hussan Lal, Secretary Health & Medical Education cum Project Director, Punjab State AIDS Control Society spoke regarding various initiatives being taken by Punjab state to curtail the transmission of HIV, especially in the injecting drugs users. He also spoke regarding the various steps being taken by Punjab State AIDS Control Society in checking the spread of disease including stepping up awareness generation. He gave aState presentation highlighting the programs being implemented in the state and issues related to law enforcement agencies while implementing harm reduction intervention among injecting drug users.

Mr.Kaushtab Sharma, Zonal Director, Narcotics Control Bureau, highlighted thatNarcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act 2014 allows for “management” of drug dependence, thereby legitimizing opioid substitution, maintenance and other harm reduction services. There was a consensus among the participants thatpolice personnel working at beat level need to make joint field visit to intervention site with NGOs providing HIV prevention services to injecting drug users to understand the field issues. Community representative and NGO functionaries working with IDUs also shared their experience on ground vis-à-vis interface with law enforcement agencies at the grass route level.

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Mr.K.B.Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Mr. Sanjay Kumar, Principal Secretary Home (Jails), Punjab, Mr.R.P.Meena, ADGP (Prisons), Punjab, Mr.R.P.Singh, Additional Director General of Police (Welfare, Punjab) Mr.K.K.Mishra, ADGP (Haryana), Dr.SumanManjri, Inspector General Police (Haryana) and Dr.V.K Gagneja, Director Health Services, Chandigarh were present for the workshop. Dr. Neeraj Dhingra, Deputy Director General, NACO presented the HIV status including issues related to drug use HIV. Dr Vandana Gupta, Project Director SACS UT-Chandigarh and Dr Manpreet Chatwal, Additional Project Director, SACS, Punjab also spoke on the occasion.

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