Collective, positive response to tackle HIV/AIDS needed
JAKHAMA, NOVEMBER 1
Parliamentary Secretary for Treasuries & Accounts, Veterinary & Animal Husbandry, Vikho-o Yhoshü today underscored the need for joint efforts from all sections of the society to rise up and respond positively in tackling the HIV and AIDS problem in the Naga society. He asserted that any HIV and AIDS program, whether for prevention or care, needs to be inclusive, involving the government, the church, civil societies, NGOs, communities and the society as a whole to take ownership of the problem within the community.
The Parliamentary Secretary said this while speaking as the guest of honour at the advocacy-cum-sensitization programme on HIV and AIDS and Drug Abuse with the stakeholders of Southern Angami area on Saturday at Jakhama Town Hall. He said that earlier people associated HIV with drug use and loose morals but today, HIV has percolated down to the general population. Lamenting that Nagaland is occupying a prominent place in the country owing to its high prevalence rate of HIV in the state, he cited a survey report which showed that 1 out of every 136 persons in Nagaland has HIV and termed this revelation alarming when there is still no cure for AIDS or a vaccine for HIV.
The Parliamentary Secretary, however, pointed out that HIV is fully preventable and that there is good news yet as the state has witnessed a decline in the prevalence rate of HIV from 1.25% to in 2000 to 0.73% in 2014.
He also remarked that the prevalence rate of HIV and AIDS among injecting drug users has reportedly dropped drastically.
“This shows that the HIV and AIDS intervention programs are effective,” he said, and acknowledged the NGOs working in partnership with the government to combat the epidemic. Yhoshü asserted that while it is the responsibility of the government to provide for the people, yet the government cannot force individuals to avail services. Towards this, he lauded the social workers (NGOs) for facilitating the process, encouraging people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHAs) to step forward and avail the services and facilities that are meant for them.
In order to respond to HIV and AIDS, he underscored the need for the people to “break the silence” and start using every opportunity to speak out about the need to prevent the spread of HIV; to educate, inform and end ignorance and fear; to eliminate stigma and discrimination; to not only sympathize but empathize, understand and share the feelings of the affected and their family members; teach the younger generation the life skills, learning to discipline themselves with moral integrity and responsibility so as to inspire an AIDS-free generation.
To PLHAs and those caught in addiction, the Parliamentary Secretary encouraged them to remember the concept that “life is broken first before being built…….When you are at the bottom, you have nowhere but upwards to go”.
Stating that each person has the responsibility not just to themselves but to the society, he urged upon all to rise up and meet the challenge that is posed before all and strive collectively to achieve the immediate goal (by the year 2015) which aims at ‘Zero new infections, Zero stigma and discrimination, and Zero AIDS related deaths’.
Kripa Foundation Nagaland advisor, Dr. Joyce Angami, in her keynote address, dwelled on how HIV and AIDS and drug abuse are looked upon by the typical Naga community. She expressed concern that many people, particularly from the rural areas, choose to remain ignorant on how or why these diseases are caused and what steps should the affected or the community take for precautionary measures. She said that people need to understand that all diseases are bad and no one chooses them to suffer.
Highlighting the routes of transmission of HIV in Nagaland from 2013-14, Dr. Joyce disclosed that 90% is from (unprotected) sexual route while 6% is through parent-to-child and 3% from sharing infected syringe and needles.
Kripa Foudation Nagaland director and HepCoN convener, Abou Mere shared briefly on Hepatitis C virus (HCV). He lamented that nothing substantial has been done by the state government to provide treatment or improve services relating to HCV and that people are dying from complications related to a curable disease (HCV) rather than HIV, which is currently an incurable disease.
“We are yet to see state government implementing its obligation of right to health by taking legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial, promotional & other measures for realization of the right to health and our fundamental right to health is ensured,” Mere said.
The Nagaland Users’ Network (NUN), on the occasion, submitted a representation to the Parliamentary Secretary pressing for the state government to adopt the Nagaland Drug Policy.
The programme was attend by leaders of various organizations at the village level including village council, students and youth bodies and women organisations of the southern Angami area.
The programme was jointly organized by Kripa Foundation and NUN and supported by the Nagaland Legislators’ Forum on AIDS (LFA). LFA state consultant, Dr. Vinito L Chishi, NUN program manager Asudi and Jakhama Town Youth Society president Nozosal Zhotso also exhorted the gathering.