Ongoing specter of HIV/AIDS
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has called for “political leadership” from the State legislators to fight HIV/AIDS. This aspect of leadership is also a must because they represent the people and so have to bear the responsibility of creating awareness and also conducting workshops. He made this statement during the annual general meeting of Legislators Forum on AIDS (LFA) at Kohimaon August 7. In the interest of their mission, the members had contributed Rs one lakh each on annual basis towards the fight against the dreaded disease which was “a first step of political will.” Rio encouraged the members of the LFA to add this quality also, among others, in their dealings in their respective Assembly Constituencies.Though the prevalent rate of this menace has been reduced from 1.20 per cent to 0.78 per cent, the ultimate goal is to attain zero new HIV infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. The overall target so far is now to bring down the prevalence rate down to below 0.5 per cent by 2015. Thereafter, the move and efforts will continue to achieve the ambitious goal of zero (HIV/AIDS free) by 2018.
As the chief patron of LFA, The Chief Minister also expressed his serious concern over the stigma and discrimination for those afflicted by the disease. He is of the view that the Church can be a most effective platform to involve in this arena because majority of the people have faith in it. For, the intended victory over HIV/AIDS is no mean challenge in the first place.
This is understandable for nuclear bombs can wrought destruction in a matter of minutes with weeks of radiation fallout but the power of HIV/AIDS expands quietly and steadily and the manner of its transmission through blood and sexual contact with an infected person has earned it the unglamourous title as the curse of the century.
Assembly Speaker, Chotisuh Sazo, has said that HIV infection through sexual route is alarmingly high in Nagaland and we need to find out the cause of this and address it appropriately. Roads and Bridges Minister, Kuzholuzo Nienu, recounted LFA performance, achievements and challenges of LFA which is now in partnership with Nagaland Development Outreach (NDO) under NBCC for training Church leaders vis-à-vis HIV/AIDS. LFA also partners with NSACS (Nagaland State Aids Control Society) a State Govt. undertaking, Project Orchid and UNDP (United Nations Development Project) for training of police personnel.
However, while lauding the activities and efforts of the LFA, people living with HIV/AIDS have suggested to the LFA to “go beyond advocacy initiatives and invest in practical care” even as the PLHA (People Living with HIV/AIDS)—mostly economically-marginalized people –-continue to fight the epidemic.
Instead of spending resources on advocacy programmes, the NMP+ (Network of Mokokchung People Living with HIV/AIDS) are of the view that it would be more profitable if LFA invests in the introduction programmes for PLHAs which focus on care, support and treatment through effective referral system. These can be supplemented by quality counseling by appointing trained outreach workers.
Among its various activities, NMP+ provides a range of services for the PLHAs and affected ones, according to NMP+ president T. Temsu Jamir. These include promoting care and support by enabling them to fight and live positively. Ties have also been made with Govt./NGOs to provide nutritional support. Fifty-five members have been trained as peer educators and they have been dispensing basic facts about HIV/AIDS in the rural areas where the disease is shrouded in myths and misconception. NMP+ also has a mid-way home (shelter) for those afflicted with the disease, plus free ambulance service.
All said and done, finally the fight against HIV/AIDS can only really begin when citizens realize that when they make a choice for a clean and healthy lifestyle they are doing so because it’s the safe and right thing to do.
Else all good efforts will be but in vain.