Running short, Himachal borrows condoms from Punjab

Times of India. 13 July 2011.

SHIMLA: For six months, Himachal Pradesh has had no condom in its stocks meant for free distribution among AIDS high-risk groups and for ensuring birth control. So, it is borrowing some from Punjab for the time being.

Officials in the Himachal AIDS Control Society say the state is facing a scarcity of nearly 30 lakh condoms. They said the state has not received its annual share of condoms – usually 35-40 lakh – from the central pool this year.

Health Minister Rajeev Bindal said the state has not received its quota from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) for the past six months.

“We are in regular touch with NACO for early supply of condoms. But we haven’t got any. There is no reason for the supply to be stopped,” Bindal said.

“Since the state is facing a shortage, we have requested Punjab to provide us five lakh condoms from its quota. We will return the borrowed condoms as and when we get the supply from the central pool,” he added.

Voluntary organizations said the shortage has badly hit AIDS-control projects in the state.

The Himachal AIDS Control Society distributes condoms free through 150 petrol pumps and 50 integrated counselling and testing centres among vulnerable sections of society. It has also tied up with 23 voluntary organizations for condom distribution.

The health minister said the consignment of condoms received from Punjab would be disbursed in the state.

“Many people, including truck drivers and even college-going students, are coming daily to ask for condoms. But there has been no stock since January-end,” said a social worker of a prominent voluntary organization working in Dharamsala slums in Kangra district, requesting anonymity.

The state has 5,198 HIV positive people, of whom 1,401 have AIDS. The number of cases is higher in Hamirpur, Mandi and Kangra districts.

Bindal said due to awareness campaigns, the HIV-positive infected rate has declined in the state from 2.4 percent in 2007 to 0.8 percent this year. The state has a population of 68 lakh.

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