Gross under reporting of AIDS figures, says NACO Director-General

Quraishi makes light of row over estimates, says data collected as per guidelines of WHO and UNICEF

Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: There was a gross under reporting of AIDS figures in the country, according to the Director-General, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), S.Y. Quraishi.

Talking to reporters after participating in a workshop on " Control of Japanese Encephalitis: the Andhra Pradesh Experience" here on Monday, he said normally 10 per cent of the total HIV-positive cases must be AIDS patients and accordingly the figure should be 5 lakhs in the country. " But there are only 1.04 lakh known AIDS cases," he added.

Scientific collection

Asked about the recent controversy on HIV/AIDS figures released by NACO, he said the data was collected in a scientific manner as per the guidelines issued by WHO and UNICEF.

Stressing the need for creating greater awareness, he said that a massive nationwide month-long campaign would be launched from July 1. The Union Minister for Health, A. Ramdoss, would participate in a programme here on July 8 as part of the campaign.

He said Andhra Pradesh had overtaken Maharashtra in prevalence rates while the overall figure was higher in that State.

He said the trials of a vaccine which started in Pune in February this year would be completed in a year. Trials of another vaccine would begin in Chennai during August-September.

Referring to Japanese Encephalitis, he said the disease was prevalent in 15 States and Union Territories in the country.

He said that vaccine against it was found to be effective and the Central Research Institute, Kasauli, had been asked to increase the production. Proposals were afoot to involve the private sector also in vaccine production, he said.

Sentinel centres

As part of the measures to combat Japanese Encephalitis, he said more sentinel centres and referral laboratories would be set up in the country.

Earlier addressing the workshop, the Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, said the State was able to effectively use the vaccine in bringing down the mortality and morbidity of JE from 50 per cent to 12 per cent.

He said that AP's experience would help other States and countries to combat the disease.

Though vaccination and proper medication were important, education was no less essential. Lack of education and low literacy were major causes for most of the ailments.

`Dubious distinction'

Stating that that he was "sorry" that Andhra Pradesh acquired the "dubious distinction" of having the highest prevalence of HIV cases, he said that a massive awareness programme had been launched in the State.

The Director of Health, Somasekhara Reddy, said that JE was endemic in 12 districts in the State and the first case was reported in 1979.

He said that vaccination was being given from 1998 and the number cases had decreased from 984 in 1997 to 24 in 2004.

He said that one million doses of the vaccine would be given to five lakh children and some of the required quantity would be imported from South Korea and Vietnam.

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