With more than 7,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and more than a thousand having died of complications associated with the disease since 1990, Mizoram is the state with the second highest incidence rate in the country, Health Minister Lal Thanzara said Monday.
Lal Thanzara, however, admitted a change in the way funds are released from the Centre has led to some complications in the fight against the disease even as opposition MLA Dr K Beichhua, to whose starred question the minister was replying to in the assembly, expressed fears such a situation may make Mizoram become the state with the highest incidence rate of HIV/AIDS.
According to Lal Thanzara, 9894 people among the 4.57 lakh who have been tested for HIV have been found positive. Of these, 1038 have died due to complications brought on by the virus.
In his reply to another starred question on the same topic by opposition MLA Lalruatkima, Lal Thanzara said more than Rs 31.25 crores have been received from the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) over the past two years but that a change in the funding pattern in the current financial year has meant some delay in disbursement of salaries to workers at the front line at least twice.
In January this year, leaders of an umbrella group of NGOs that work with the Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) had warned of a surge in the disease’s prevalence because the cash-strapped state government was unable to release more than Rs 800 lakhs it had already received from NACO more than five months earlier.
They said this meant the 37 frontline organisations were unable to pay salaries or rent for the premises they were occupying and had to curtail outreach operations, leading to a shortage of preventive equipment such as disposable syringes and condoms to a huge percentage of more than 12,500 intravenous drug users and an equal number of sex-workers, informal migrant workers and homosexuals.