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Punjab

Posted at: Jul 13, 2018, 1:19 AM; last updated: Jul 13, 2018, 1:19 AM (IST)WAR ON DRUGS

No free syringes, panel fears HIV spread

Post drug deaths, cops, activists stop distribution to addicts by AIDS control society

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 12

The state government's AIDS control programme has been derailed, thanks to the rise of vigilantism that has brought down free distribution of syringes to injection drug users (IDU).

With 12 out of 100 IDUs in the state being HIV positive, as against the national average of 6.26, the stopping of free syringes to the users — hopefully on a temporary basis — could lead to an AIDS or hepatitis C epidemic. As of now, Punjab has the third highest incidence of HIV positive persons in IDUs, second only to Mizoram (19.8 in every 100) and Delhi (16 in every 100).

Even the hepatitis C prevalence among IDUs in Punjab (1.56 per cent) is four times the national average (0.4 per cent). It is estimated that there are 75,000 IDUs in the state who are vulnerable to these two infections.

The Punjab State AIDS Control Society is facing a serious problem of having to deal with vigilantes and the state police following the spate of drug deaths. 

In many places in Faridkot, Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts, reports of police stopping the distribution of free syringes to HIV positive addicts have been reported.

Since there is lack of awareness about the AIDS control programme, NGOs as well as peer educators are mistaken as peddlers distributing syringes to addicts. 

"Following threats, the peer educators have been withdrawn from the work of distributing syringes," said a senior official of the Punjab State AIDS Control Society.

Each month, 1.32 lakh syringes are distributed to 12,000 HIV positive drug addicts. The issue was discussed in a meeting chaired by the CM earlier this year and officials of the society were allowed to carry on distribution of bulk syringes to HIV positive addicts.

Crusaders mistaken as peddlers

Since there is a lack of awareness about the AIDS control programme, NGOs as well as peer educators are mistaken as peddlers distributing syringes to addicts. Each month, 1.32 lakh syringes are distributed to 12,000 HIV positive drug addicts, but the number has come down drastically in the last one month.

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