National policy on alcohol abuse in pipeline

Strong linkages between alcohol abuse and HIV.

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Sonal Matharu | September 30, 2010



India may soon see a national policy on combatting alcohol use, the draft for which is ready and sent to the social justice and empowerment ministry, the health ministry and the health ministry’s body which looks after HIV/AIDS, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). This was announced by the speakers at the end of a three-day conference on Alcohol and HIV here on Thursday which was organised by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) along with NACO and some international NGOs.

“A policy on alcohol will be out soon. The ministry of social justice and empowerment is already running a programme on alcohol use but it doesn’t converge with the health ministry’s HIV programmes. This is the first time that a draft has been sent to the health ministry and NACO as well,” said Dr Ravi Verma, regional director, International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), an NGO which was one of the organisers of the conference.

The event focused on linking alcohol abuse as a factor in spreading HIV, which, the speakers said, has been ignored till date.

“There was never a systematic study done to prove that alcohol abuse is directly linked to the spread of HIV. For the last two years we have been involved in generating evidence and linkages between HIV and alcohol. Our study shows that 62 million people in India are habitual of alcohol and half of them are into hazardous drinking. Most people also indulge in unsafe sex with commercial sex workers and do not use condoms,” said Verma.

The agenda of alcohol abuse is missing from all the government programmes targeting HIV/AIDS. Efforts are now being taken at the national level to conduct surveys for better measures to address the problems.

Youth, said Verma, are the prime targets for spreading awareness about HIV prevention and alcohol abuse. To reach the youth, awareness has to be spread through some of the main HIV and de-addiction programmes already running. He added that efficiency of the programmes also has to be evaluated.

“We need better models of intervention to have an impact in such a way that they are culturally sensitive,” said Dr Jean Schensul, director, Institute for Community Research, one of the event participants.
 

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