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HIV test made mandatory for city cops
TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ THURSDAY, JANUARY 08, 2004 01:44:55 AM ]
MUMBAI: Alarmed at the increasing number of HIV positive cases in the
force, the Mumbai police has decided to make it mandatory for each of
the 38,000 constables and officers up to the rank of inspector to
undergo a HIV test every six months.
As many as 450 police personnel have been tested HIV positive since
1991, of which 18 have succumbed to the disease. Dr D.R. Waje, police
surgeon and head of the Nagpada police hospital, said 301 HIV-
positive cases had been admitted in the hospital in the past five
Said joint police commissioner (administration) P.K. Jain, "We want
to tackle the problem on a war-footing. In the first phase, we have
asked all the new recruits to carry a health card. They will have to
get themselves tested for HIV every six months and this will help us
in early detection of the disease."
The police department plans to build a computer database of the HIV
status of its staff.
Insiders say that several policemen indulge in high-risk behaviour. A
deputy commissioner confirmed that many policemen contracted the
virus from prostitutes.
Mr Jain recently took a review of such cases and has now decided to
create an AIDS awareness programme at 83 police stations and 12 crime
branch units in Mumbai. More than 800 policemen have been trained to
create the awareness through posters, street plays and personal
Dr Alka Gogate, project director, Mumbai District AIDS Control
Society (MDACS), said her organisation planned to carry out a
scientific sample survey to study the real prevalence of AIDS among
police personnel. "The figures are alarming enough. But this data
talks about what the police hospital has come across. We want to
assess the actual incidence," she asserted.
The MDACS also plans to set up a voluntary testing and counselling
centre right at the Nagpada police hospital.
H I V specialist I.S. Gilada claims to have treated 100 cases over
the past 10 years, "Policemen who come to me have had typical
symptoms of HIV like tuberculosis, and over 90 per cent of them also
have some sexually transmitted disease as well," he said.
However, some HIV specialists contest the theory of high prevalence
Retroviral physician Shashank Joshi says the incidence of infection
among policemen is low. "I have treated thousands of HIV-positive
persons in my five years of practice at J.J. Hospital and Lilavati
Hospital , but I have not come across a single HIV-positive
policeman," he stressed.
Going by the figures put out by the Nagpada hospital, he said, every
profession was at high risk. Dr Joshi said policemen needed targeted
intervention, not for HIV at the moment, but for other ailments.
"They are increasingly suffering from hypertension, diabetes, and
heart disease," he said.