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Nagaland: Social taboo hampering fight against HIV/AIDS

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By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Sep 20, 2022 12:32 am
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Shanavas C with Dr. Akuo Sorhie and other officials at NHAK on Monday. (EM Images)

Our Correspondent
Kohima, Sep. 19 (EMN): The taboos around HIV/AIDS still exist in the society unlike other diseases, and most people suffering from the disease lose confidence to live a quality life owing to the circumstances, said Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Kohima, Shanavas C, on Monday.

He was addressing the inaugural programme of Sampoorna Suraksha Kendra (SSK) at Conference Hall, School of Nursing, Naga Hospital Authority Kohima (NHAK).

Maintaining that the prevalence rate is still high in Nagaland with 1.45%, he recalled his early days of service as Assistant Commissioner at Tuensang, where despite high prevalence rate, people didn’t come forward (to take a test or seek help).

He asserted that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 to end HIV/AIDS is not an easy task, pointing out that ‘there is taboo, people don’t come forward and not much awareness is created’.

In this regard, he stressed on the importance of awareness and protection, adding that coordinated effort is required from the administration as well as all the departments to identify the high risk group and reach out to them.

He laid emphasis on the need to reach out to schools and colleges for sensitisation and awareness to leave a long-term impact and reduce the taboos. He also said that maintaining accurate data will enable proper planning, while suggesting the idea of training a teacher from each school to share about HIV/AIDS to the students.

Measures to avert infection

In his keynote address, Dr. Akuo Sorhie, Project Director, Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS), said Sampoorna Suraksha Strategy (SSS) is a new ‘immersion learning model’ to identify the best path forward, collect feedback and adapt strategies on-the-go to reach out to the population “at risk” of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI), under the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and supported by Global Fund Grant 2021-22.

She maintained that India, being the signatory of SDG, is committed to ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, while SSS envisions to accelerate the national HIV response by reaching out to the population at risk and reduce HIV and STI/RTI infections.

Sorhie pointed out that as per HIV estimations 2019, annual new HIV infections has declined in India by 37% between 2010 and 2019, which is higher than the global average of 23%, adding that there is a need to further arrest the spread of HIV.

“New infections among ‘at risk’ individuals who do not identify themselves as part of any High-Risk Group (HRG) are still being missed out in the routine coverage, so SSS is targeted towards those ‘at risk’ individuals to help them stay negative and stay healthy,” said the official.

She added that SSS is an innovative cost-effective approach for HIV prevention among ‘at risk’ populations, to prevent new HIV infections and avert AIDs-related deaths, while ‘at risk’ population will avail a comprehensive package model of service delivery at SSK.

The official informed that the service package includes set of services customised as per clients’ needs, with strong linkages and referrals with other services and social security schemes, rigorous outreach and follow ups with clients, leveraging virtual platforms through various apps and other sources including but not limited to Hep B, Hep C, STIs including syphilis, mental health, reproductive and child health, hormone post-surgery services, social security schemes, government welfare services, legal services etc.

She said SSS may serve as a hybrid model, integrating physical and virtual services such as social media and other virtual platforms, including PPP models with private providers and other social networking/dating/informational platforms for e-referrals; reinvigorate its helpline 1097 to make it attractive to younger populations such as adolescents and youth, as well as populations that have high risk and who prefer anonymity in accessing services.

The project director also informed that Kohima has been selected among the 75 Phase-I districts (FY 2021-22) in the country for SSS implementation followed by an additional 75 centres in Phase-2 during the period of FY 2021-24 on the basis of top HIV positivity ranking, co-infection rates, risk behaviour and usage of family planning commodities.

She maintained that in addition to the results from data analysis, states and districts from Northeast region (Mizoram and Nagaland) were selected on the basis of geography and high percentage of high-risk behaviour population.

Sorhie also informed that under SSS, existing ICTC/DSRC facilities under NACP are being re-modelled into Sampoorna Suraksha facilities and will be implemented through the existing NACP facilities i.e., ICTCs or DSRCs and SSK team will work closely with the DSRC/ICTC and other facilities of NACO in the district.

Further, the official informed that districts selected for SSS implementation undertook an assessment tool survey in April 2022 and ICTC NHAK had fulfilled the criteria laid down by NACO to roll out SSS in Nagaland, while Nagaland Users’ Network, a Target Intervention (TI) NGO under NACO NSACS, was appointed as the agency for SSK staff selection and also for supporting the implementation of the strategy and provide technical support to the programme.

Dr. Sendimeren Aonok, Medical Superintendent of NHAK highlighted the initiatives of HIV/AIDS and NACO while assuring full support to the SSK on behalf of NHAK.

Meanwhile, Dr. Thorusie Katiry, Mission Director of National Health Mission (NHM), in his short speech emphasised on the need for quality of life.

The programme was chaired by Dr. M Nukshisangla Jamir, Deputy Director (BSD/ SSS Nodal officer) NSACS, and vote of thanks delivered by Dr. Bernice Thapru, Joint Director, Targeted Intervention, NSACS.

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By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Sep 20, 2022 12:32:51 am