“NGOs find it difficult to retain staff without paying salaries”

The Tamil Nadu Aids Control Society (TNSACS) must sanction adequate funds for the continuance of the AIDS control project in the State in the current financial year, said T.S. Ramkumar, Director, Centre for Social Reconstruction (CSR), a non- governmental organisation (NGO), here.

He told The Hindu on Tuesday that NGOs in the State were in a dilemma as to whether to continue with the ongoing programmes owing to uncertainty over funding. If the TNSACS officials have detected any malpractices, they could initiate action against the particular NGO and allow others to continue with the programme by allotting adequate funds, he said.

Nearly 75 NGOs have been working in the State with 650 trained staff to prevent HIV/AIDS in Tamil Nadu with financial support from TNSACS. These NGOs had established contacts with female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender and drug addicts in order to involve them in regular medical check-ups, HIV testing and counselling services.

Trained personnel had been working to prevent the spread of HIV and helping the needy to make use of the State government schemes. It was owing to their hard work that Tamil Nadu had become a role model for all other States in India in HIV/AIDS prevention, Mr. Ramkumar claimed.

In this backdrop, the TNSACS had not sanctioned funds to facilitate continuance of the programmes.

“It must either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on fund allotment since the NGOs find it difficult to keep their staff without paying salaries. And it is equally difficult to recruit new staff and continue the activities with the same vigour,” he said.

The TNSACS officials should be clear about its plans. Or else, the efforts taken in the past 18 years will be in vain,” Mr. Ramkumar added.

When contacted over phone, a TANSACS official in Chennai confirmed that the annual action plan from the National AIDS Control Organisation in New Delhi had been received and, hence, all eligible NGOs will get the project continuation sanction letter as well as adequate funds within a week.