Pre-induction HIV screening introduced in Armed forces

Kochi, Oct 26: The Indian Armed Forces have introduced pre-induction HIV/Aids screening test for those joining the services, a top official of the Forces' Medical Services Wing said today.

"From now onwards the screening test would become mandatory for those entering the Armed forces", Surgeon Vice Admiral V K Singh, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) said.

The Indian Armed Forces' HIV programme was considered the best in the world and the US was taking a cue from India, Singh, who is also the senior colonel commandant of the Army Medical Corps (AMC), told a press meet after inaugurating the Orthopaedic Centre of the Naval Hospital INHS Sanjivini here.

The Armed Forces have not reported any aids death since 2005 and at present 32 cases of HIV were being treated. A medical officer is posted in every unit. Stress was given on removing the 'veil of secrecy' with regard to HIV.

Open discussions with families of affected personnel are encouraged and more awareness programmes have been introduced, he said.

While the HIV patients can continue in service and are entitled to all free medical benefits, aids patient would not be allowed to continue in service and would not be get medical pension, Singh said.

On reports about stress-related suicides among armed personnel, he said an in-house analysis had shown that most cases of suicides were reported from those who had joined duty after leave.

Soldiers have no 'battle stress'. The anxiety over the future of family members and property issues had made some them to take the extreme step, he claimed.

Anyhow, the three service chiefs have taken up the issue with the Home Ministry, he said.

'Dastak', a film on aids awareness, is being screened at all units, Singh said.

As part of the 'Sadbhavana Treatment' in Jammu and Kashmir and North East where the civilian medical infrastructure is meager, Armed Forces hospitals are providing the necessary treatment for the civilians also, he said.

In Kerala, the two Armed Forces hospitals at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram have been authorised to treat emergency civilian cases.

Speaking after inaugurating the Orthopaedic Centre, Singh said in the next three months, the Naval hospital in Kochi will be equipped with a cardiac centre and a cancer centre was also under consideration, he said.

With the introduction of the Ex-servicemen Central Health Scheme(ECHS), additional funds have been allotted and the hospital could be upgraded, he said.