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Is Haryana Geared-up To Deal With Fatal Diseases?

Is Haryana Geared-up To Deal With Fatal Diseases?, naya haryana, नया हरियाणा

18th August 2014

Naya Haryana

Positive health and easy access to quality healthcare are the marks of a progressive state. This is our vision for a Naya Haryana too. The current scenario, however, seems to be a dismal and outright scary one. Haryana is still struggling for basic amenities eradication of poverty and hunger, provision of hygienic drinking water and nutritious food for all, education and literacy. Even when healthcare is tackled, the state administration tends to focus only on women's health, postnatal care, and provision of mobile healthcare vans. Even as we tend to struggle with these, the spotlight on fatal diseases and major ailments is greatly reduced. Haryana is highly ill-equipped to stem the spread of fatal diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and hepatitis among others.

According to reports from early 2013, Haryana had a total of 16,700 HIV positive cases. Some 13,500 of these cases were contracted by sexual transmission and the rest through blood transmission, transmission by pregnancy, and use of infected needles. About 12,000 of the victims are between 25 to 49 years of age. While it is true that in comparison with other states the spread of HIV in Haryana is rather limited, the state is also ill-equipped to handle an epidemic. The HIV/AIDS awareness activities in the state are scanty and scattered, and condoms are still taboo. Adequate facilities for diagnosis and access to antiretroviral treatment for those from the middleclass and poorer sections of society are lacking.

Haryana's biggest healthcare battle is against cancer. According to many research reports, the state has the highest incidences of cancer in the country. The government is, however, struggling to quantify the number of cancer patients in the state. According to a 2013 report, the Haryana government estimated that there were about 70,000 cancer patients in the state. The formula for this estimation was devised by the Union Ministry of Family and Health Welfare. There were about 27,827 cancer patients seeking treatment in Haryana at the time. This number was multiplied by 2.6 to account for those seeking treatment in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Bikaner. The system seems both unscientific and inimical to identifying the zones or regions in the state that are prone to cancer. According to a private study, high rates of alcohol consumption among men and tobacco usage among both sexes are the greatest causes for cancer in the state. In the absence of a detailed state-wide study about the numbers affected, the type and regional occurrences, and the possible causes of such affliction, the state is virtually handicapped to stem the spread of cancer.

Almost 12 million Indians are affected by Hepatitis C; what makes the disease a major threat is that most of the victims are unaware of the infection. According to a study conducted in the Ratia block of Fatehabad District about 22% of those who agreed to get their blood tested were deemed positive for Hepatitis C. Most patients become aware of the disease well after liver cirrhosis or liver cancer sets in, turning the disease fatal. The risk of secondary infection among family and friends is also exceptionally high making the spread of the disease virtually unstoppable unless detected and treated quickly.

What is common to all the above cases, is that there is a major disconnect between the occurences and the common man's ability to tackle these at his/her personal level. In the first place, there hardly seems to be any awareness of these diseases or even the extent of the harm that could be caused. There is clearly a lack of coordination between people and the civic authorities who do not seem to understand that even spreading awareness could make people cautious and thereby reduce the spread by at least 30%. The bigger question is how to go about making people realize the causes, the ways to prevent spread of the disease, and finally how to get to the right speciality hospital to get screened and diagnosed at the right time.

To make Haryana a healthier, livelier space the spread of fatal diseases must be curbed with awareness and action. The best way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is by initiating a massive awareness campaign. Prevention of transmission from pregnant women to their babies and the prevention of transmission through infected needles need to be part of the fabric of healthcare facilities in the state. Making anti-retroviral medicines available to the masses by making them part of the mobile healthcare units that can access the remotest parts of the state.

Haryana needs at least three major cancer hospitals to ensure that the citizens of the state do not need to go out to get treatment. These hospitals could double up as research institutes. Setting up early detection facilities in rural sectors is key to bringing down the death rate due to cancer. Hepatitis is a tough adversary that can be best fought with hiking up the state's sanitation and hygiene levels, making clean drinking water available across the state and providing early detection and adequate medication throughout the state.

Our Naya Haryana can only be built on the foundations of good health and hygiene. Awareness and availability of medical facilities, pharmacies and drugs, doctors and medical practitioners, hospitals and health facilities are essential facilities that the citizens must enjoy. The country has woken up to the threats posed by the spread of cancer, HIV/AIDS and other fatal diseases. It is time Haryana takes a look at these too. Only then can this state become the land of our dreams. 

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