Himachal Pradesh has been praised by the World Bank for running “effective and focused” programmes to check HIV/AIDS in the state, which has witnessed a surge in the number of positive cases in the last three years.

A six-member team of the World Bank, which had toured the state recently, assessed the HIV/AIDS control measures in different parts of the state and praised the state government for running “effective and focused” programmes in this direction, Director Health Sulakshna Puri told PTI on Sunday.

The state has also won accolade from National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in this regard, Puri, who is also the Project director of the State AIDS control society, said.

Particularly impressed with the transparency in financial monitoring of the AIDS programmes in HP, the NACO said the tiny Himalayan state should serve as a “pilot site” for other states, she added.

While there were 530 cases of HIV positive in the state in 2006-07, it rose to 590 in 2007-08, to 770 in 2008-09 and to 249 in between April to July, 2009, Health Minister Rajeev Bindal had said in the state assembly last week.

The minister had said the first case of AIDS came to light in the state in 1952 and since then 60 people have died due to the deadly disease.

After Kangra, the most populated district of the state, Hamirpur, native district of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, tops in the number of HIV positive cases during the period. Shimla is third in the list.

The minister said the state government has taken several preventive steps to control the disease. Around 44 new testing centres have been set up besides the 21 that already existed.

Due to its comprehensive and focused awareness programmes, the awareness percentage on HIV/AIDS in HP is 93 per cent among females and 83 per cent among males respectively whereas at the national level it is 84 per cent and 61 per cent respectively, he added.

A total of 24,555 pregnant women have undergone tests for the deadly disease so far which reflects the growing awareness among masses, Mr. Bindal said.

Ms. Puri said in addition to conventional centres like government hospitals, the state government is distributing free condoms to people through 3000 non-conventional centres like petrol pumps, barber shops and Dhaba (roadside eateries).

She said prospective groom and brides are also advised to take HIV/AIDS test before marriage through Red Ribbon clubs, an idea mooted by the Chief Minister.