Calling for a multi-sectoral approach to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said there should be greater integration of resources in dealing with the problem.

Inaugurating a two-day national convention of zilla parishad chairpersons and mayors on HIV/AIDS, organised by the Forum of Parliamentarians on HIV and AIDS here, Dr. Singh said all Ministries concerned should have a “HIV sensitive” policy and programmes so that the marginalised populations, infected and affected by the disease, are not denied the benefits of these schemes.

“Linkages should be made between the HIV/AIDS programme and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme to facilitate employment of HIV-positive persons. Nutritional needs of HIV-positive people, especially women and children should be tackled by linking them with the Integrated Child Development Scheme and other developmental programmes,” he said.

While appreciating the measure of success in containing the epidemic, the Prime Minister, however, warned against complacency. He said there were emerging vulnerabilities among migrants and mobile populations which have not been yet fully addressed. “The HIV prevention services have to be scaled up for all those who are at risk,” the Prime Minister emphasised. The challenge will be to maintain a fine balance between prevention and treatment strategies. Some of the key priority areas will be preventing new infections in hitherto low prevalence States, while consolidating efforts in the high prevalence ones, he added.

The prevention of transmission from infected pregnant women to the new born child is a priority area as the proportion of institutional deliveries in the country is low.

The larger health system should also contribute in providing a wider platform for greater reach of the HIV/AIDS programme. All healthcare providers, including ASHA workers, should be involved in this gigantic task. Primary and community health centres should be made fully capable of providing treatment for opportunistic infection, the Prime Minister said.

“If health has to become a people's movement for the people's benefit, civil society involvement and the involvement of Panchayati Raj Institution-guided programme delivery are absolutely essential,” Dr. Singh said.

Speaking on the occasion, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the fact that the forum is represented by people from all parties demonstrates that “our resolve” to address issues concerning citizens can be greater than “our commitment to any political party.”

Noting that those belonging to the most disadvantaged sections suffer the most, Ms. Gandhi stressed the need for creating awareness about the disease.