Wake up to global reality on gays: Ramadoss (Interview)

September 29th, 2008 - 12:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Anbumani RamadossNew Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) A combative Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who has lost his battle with the government on legalising homosexuality, says India should wake up to the growing global acceptance of gays as this would ensure “an effective fight against AIDS”.”I would like to help gays come overground for an effective fight against AIDS. The world over gays are being accepted. We too need to move on,” Ramadoss told IANS in an interview.

During the interview, he also spoke of the launch in two months of a Rs.7.5-billion National Emergency and Trauma Programme that will eventually see 20,000 ambulances across the country immediately responding to highway accidents, and of the National Nutrition Mission that aims to eliminate malnutrition by 2015.

According to the minister, he was aware of the social opposition to his demand to de-criminalize men having sex with men (MSM) but this was “a very serious issue from the AIDS-control point of view.

The National AIDS Control Programme, which is in Phase III (2007-2012), was being “adversely impacted because it is difficult to reach out to the gay population of the country. According to estimates, in India there are 2.46 million men who have sex with men. We know the HIV infection status of only 50 percent of these men. Eighty-six percent of HIV infection is through the sex route, which includes MSM and transgender,” the minister pointed out.

He lamented that because of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that bans unnatural sex, a doctor could be arrested for treating a gay and a health worker could also be arrested for advising MSM about HIV infection.

“Imagine the problem this means when it comes to our fight to contain HIV infection. While I fully support protecting children against sexual abuse and treating pedophiles as criminals,I would like to help gays come overground for an effective fight against AIDS.”

Answering a question on continued deaths due to malnutrition, Ramadoss said that for the last one year, the health ministry and the women and child development ministry had been working on the National Nutrition Mission that aims to eliminate malnutrition by 2015.

“The programme will be rolled out shortly. The prime minister is very concerned about this problem and had three detailed discussions with us on the programme. In India, there is malnutrition because of poverty and also because of indulgence in the wrong sort of food. To tackle this, we will launch before December 2008 the National School Health Programme which will ensure that schoolgoing children are screened for eye and nose diseases, are taught about HIV, environment and a good diet,” the minister stated.

Queried on the steps being taken to raise the standard of care and medical assistance provided in hospitals and government health centres, the minister said the Rs.7.5 billion National Emergency and Trauma Programme would be rolled out in two months.

“Under this initiative, we will set up trauma centres on the country’s highways. There will be a telephone booth every five km to report a health emergency. At every 50 km, there will be a fully loaded ambulance on standby.

“A basic trauma centre will be established every 100 km while there will be a super specialty trauma centre every 500 km. Existing facilities will be used to provide these services. We hope to cover the entire highways in the next two years.

“We will soon also have an all-India emergency toll free number (108) that will alert ambulances of any emergency. Already there are 15-25 ambulances under this in states that have rolled out the programme (Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand). Ten other states have signed an MoU to avail of this facility. In three years, we expect a fleet of 20,000 ambulances to operate under this programme.”

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