How Nagaland police can embrace HIV intervention roles
Law enforcement and HIV sufferers have a common ground in the context of redress. On its part, the police in Nagaland must have to see HIV-AIDS from the perspective of health intervention and not as a ground of prosecution, reports our Kohima Correspondent Atono Tsukru
KOHIMA, MAY 24 : Law enforcement, particularly the police force, always comes in direct contact with those deemed criminal and antisocial. Recognizing the police establishment as a possible platform to addressing HIV-AIDS issues among said community, a state workshop on HIV-AIDS was conducted for law enforcers in Kohima town on Tuesday.
The program was the recognition of a unique opportunity in that the law enforcement departments would be able to play the role of facilitator in reducing vulnerabilities to the risk of HIV infection among those in conflict with the law and associated marginalized sections of the society.
The program was jointly organized local nongovernmental organizations Kripa Foundation and FHI 360 and state agencies the Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS) and the Nagaland police department. Director General of Police LL Doungel, was the chief guest of the event. Dr Bitra George, country director of FHI 360, was the resource person.
Addressing police personnel, Doungel said that the mindset and perception of the people towards HIV-AIDS had changed over the years, unlike in the past when people had ‘a mental block, stigma and social abhorrence’ at sufferers of HIV/AIDS.
‘Now we don’t get judgmental or scared, but we realize it’s a problem that everyone has to face collectively,’ said the police chief.
Doungel asserted that the matter was something that couldn’t be avoided; it is spread across the communities, and cannot be stopped unless ‘we are able to get into the community, and tell them what this problem is all about and the way out too.’
The official asserted further that the people need to recognize the problem of HIV-AIDS as a common concern, one that is shared by all–a social burden for everyone which demands more than the role of just the police, but every other citizen as well.
Also speaking about the role of police personnel against the inflow of drugs into Nagaland, the police chief said the enforcement can
exert preventive actions by denying an opportunity to persons who are to use them. The police can exert stringent postures to restrict the movement of contraband, for instance, ‘which are harmful to the users and the society as a whole.’
Although not denying that the police cannot entirely stop the flow of illegal drugs from reaching where it can be abused and used, the DGP said, enforcement within the context of abuse and health is where police personnel need to be sensitized ‘so that the flow is stopped.’
‘Though it is not possible to entirely stop (flow of detrimental substances), we are doing whatever we can…we all have to work in
tandem to address the problem, only then we can get somewhere,’ Doungel said.
In order to see that the HIV/AIDS is controlled, Doungel said as an advice, the state’s police personnel must ‘first see that one is not infected, don’t get it and be wise about it.’
The police chief said that the department has been ‘trying to address the problem’ for the past several years ‘by inclusion of HIV/AIDS sensitization in its training curriculum of Recruit Constables so that one is no longer ignorant.’ The schematics would enable police officers to address the problem ‘much better and also enforce the law with some degree of awareness,’ he added.
Dr Bitra George delivered a PowerPoint to highlight drug control and regulations besides provisions under the NDPS Act. The resource
person said that the people need to understand that drug dependence is a chronic relapsing disorder which requires proper prevention and treatment services.
Dr. George asserted that the law enforcement officials should understand and look at the issue from a public health perspective rather than take the punitive approach. The law enforces plays a key role by linking the marginalized and criminalized sections of the society to services and interventions available for their restitutions, he said.
Giving an overview of HIV/AIDS programs in Nagaland, the project director of the NSACS, Dr Meguosilie Kire, said the percentage of Nagaland in HIV prevalence was 0.78%. It is higher than the national average at 0.26%. He said that the ‘most productive age,’ those between 25-35 years are being ‘consumed’ by HIV/AIDS with 90% of HIV transmissions through the sexual route.
Dr Kire also said that the police, as the mandated protectors of the civil rights of citizens, need to understand the High Risk Groups (HRGs) and enhance and support the functioning of targeted intervention programs in the state. He pointed out that the police department needed to address ‘drug dependence in the police force too. At the same time, he suggested treatment options to jailed persons who abuse drugs.
The members of the workshop have decided to form a working group comprising police officers and members from partner nongovernmental organizations. The group will work at strategies for further action for the state.