Control and Treatment of Infectious Diseases Department of health is striving to control and eliminate the following infectious diseases, including drug abuse among the Tibetan youth:
1. TB Control ProgramTuberculosis (TB) continues to remain one of the major health problems for exile Tibetans in India and Nepal. Unhygienic surrounding, refugee life, low nutritional diets, lack of awareness, stress and most of all changes in the habitation from high altitude Tibet to tropical hot weather of the Indian subcontinent are some of the primary cause of high incidents of TB cases in Tibetan community.
The Department’s TB control program practice its assignments in conformity with the treatment guidelines laid down by the World Health Organization (WHO) and that of the host nation, India. As per the guidelines, Directly Observed Therapy Short course (DOTS) strategy is the practice applied to keep TB under control in the settlements. The PHCs and hospitals serve as first referral centers for patients within the settlements and the hospitals provide basic diagnostic and treatment facilities. To further reduce the risk of spreading the disease, isolation TB wards for positive smear is constructed at hospitals with special diet and recreational facilities for the patients.
2. Leprosy Control ProgramLeprosy is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. Most people have a natural immunity to the disease and those that do develop leprosy can be cured with modern Multidrug Therapy Treatment (MDT). The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes, apart from some other structures. Leprosy has afflicted humanity since time immemorial. It once affected every continent and has left behind a terrifying image in history and human memory – of mutilation, rejection and exclusion from society.
The department is struggling hard to eradicate the disease. At present, it is working with Palampur Leprosy Home where Tibetan Leprosy patients are admitted. We have currently 13 patients on roll. They are provided with medical assistance, monthly stipend, dry ration subsidy and clothing for their living.
3. HIV/AIDS Control Program PreventionLike any other citizens of the world, Tibetans in exile are no different when it comes to HIV/AIDS pandemic. Due to a highly mobile refugee community, Tibetans are at higher risk of the pandemic. The department not only have a moral responsibility to shoulder world’s endeavor to control the disease but is making extra effort to create awareness about it among the unawares. It has established a special program/desk at its head office, whose primary objective is to educate the public about the disease. The department does this by making free distribution of pamphlets, posters, charts and audiovisual CD & DVD on HIV/AIDS. It also conducts mobile mass awareness campaigns in Tibetan community, including free HIV testing and distribution of condoms on large scale. The department, in collaboration with local NGOs like CHOICE (HIV/AIDS) and Kunphen (Substance abuse), observe international days of AIDS and Substance Abuse respectively, during which promotion activities such as mass marathon and signature campaigns are carried out.
Treatment and Medication The program, though prioritizes the preventive measures, also focus on medications, and with the generous policies of the host nation, medication of the pandemic is free of cost. Usually HIV positive patients do not come forward readily to seek help due to social stigma associated with the disease, such as discrimination, lack of family support and knowledge. In order to encourage individual patients to come forward and seek treatment, the Department of Health organizes various workshops and training on HIV counseling to the local health workers, who deal directly with the patients. Given the individual financial crises as well as to encourage patients to take the medication, the Department of Health provides financial assistance and those who come forward are referred to Delek Hospital or other local Indian hospital for diagnoses. Their immediate families are also encouraged to conduct the test. The Department of Health has been able to support the traveling cost of the patients to obtain medication, room rent and a daily allowance of Rupees 180 per day. It also bear costs of other people who might accompany the patients to help them in visiting the Integrated Counseling and Testing centre (ICTC) & ART centre.
4. Substance Abuse Control ProgramDrug users and alcohol drinkers are not only more susceptible to getting infected with HIV/AIDS, but they are also more likely to suffer faster disease progress than those who do not drink or use illicit drugs. Therefore Substance Abuse control program of the department work hand in hand with the HIV/AIDS desk. Apart from integrating HIV/AIDS and Substance abuse, the program also focus on treatment and rehabilitation of the patients abreast creating mass awareness and health education.
The Department of Health in coordination with the Tibetan schools has initiated special committee comprising of both staff and students to control substance abuse in schools. And the Department organizes annual inter-school committee meeting to discuss the issues. The department also organizes various activities such as inter-school drawing competitions and awareness lectures are given during which rehabilitated persons share their experiences.
Treatment and Rehabilitation Concerning the treatment of a substance abuse patient, the Department of Health financially support them to get admitted into de-addiction centers and those rehabilitated are further provided with live skill trainings to reintegrate them in the wider society.
The major difficulties the department faces in extending its help to the substance abuse patients are lack of willingness and motivation on the patients’ side to accept their disease and seek treatment. Under such circumstances, the Department of Health organizes and provides counseling training to its existing medical health workers to improve their capacity to deal with the substance abuse cases.