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`Most injections in India unsafe'

By Bindu Shajan Perappadan

NEW DELHI, MAY 30. Shocking or seemingly careless as it may sound, two-third of the injections being used in India are unsafe, states a recent report prepared by the Indian branch of an international organisation, INCLEN, and sponsored by the World Bank. The unsafe needle practice would bring along for the country around 20,00,000 new Hepatitis B cases, 4,00,000 new Hepatitis C cases and 30,000 new HIV-positive cases each year.

"The consequences are especially serious for India as the number of injections administration is very high in the country: On an average, three injections are administered per person per year. Injections administered are highest in the below one year age group (5.8) -- mostly vaccinations -- and a little less above one year of age (around 2.8),'' explained Ravi Aggarwal of Srishti, an organisation which has been working in the field to promote safe needle practice.

According to officials, a report on injection practices in India was submitted to the Ministry of Health in February 2004, prepared by the Clinical Epidemiology Unit of the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The study, which looked into the various aspects of the problem, was aimed at assessing the frequency of injections in India to determine what proportion was unsafe and what proportion not required.

What the study noted was the fact that about 23.8 per cent of the injections administered were unsafe due to questionable sterility, while re-use of injection syringes was placed as the second most dangerous practice. However the most serious threat was perceived from the various wrong habits that were prevalent.

The report also noted that the government hospitals and immunisation clinics are more likely to be unsafe. But private facilities are only a little better, at 59.7 per cent. Also glass syringes are more unsafe than plastic ones and in government hospitals, 95.1 per cent of the injections are given by pharmacists or nurses, health workers or by helper trainees or assistants, while only 8.2 per cent was administered by doctors or prescribes. In private hospitals, however, doctors give 61 per cent of the injections.

The government on its part claims that it has initiated steps to promote safe needle practice including inclusion of information regarding the use of sterilised syringes and needles in all awareness campaigns of National AIDS Control Programme and training of medical and paramedical staff. Needle cutters are also being supplied to various government hospitals through State AIDS Control Societies.

"Injection safety becomes a serious concern in the age of deadly blood-borne pathogens, which can be easily spread by unsafe injections. Very focussed efforts need to be undertaken to control this menace,'' explained Ratna Singh of Toxics Link who is part of the study on safe needle practice in the country.

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