Kohima, December 1: Kripa Foundation Nagaland and Kohima Users’ Network (KUN) on Saturdayorganized World AIDS Day prelude programme at Kripa D’Block DIC.
Speaking on the occasion, President of Nagaland Press Association (NPA), H. Chishi felt that community responses to HIV must be incorporated into state and national AlDS plans, from the planning and budgeting phases, to the execution, monitoring and evaluation phases.
He also stressed on the need to put collective effort to fight against HIV by involving churches, village council, women and student organizations.
He said that all efforts be made to eliminate stigma, discrimination and insecurities.
VDB can even allocate some amount, he said adding that Legislators’ Forum for HIV/AIDS should be activated again.
Stating that churches occupy an important social platform, he said that “Already in 1987 the executive committee of the World Council of Churches called the churches to address the urgent challenges posed by the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
Stating that organizations and groups working on HIV and AlDS have come across the disappointment caused by HIV-related stigma, which can limit the success of prevention, care, support and treatment interventions, Chishi said “Any effective intervention, therefore, requires mainstreaming stigma eradication strategies into all interventions, something that cannot be achieved without forming partnerships with infected people and organizations.”
The church’s response to the challenge of HIV/AIDS comes from its deepest theological convictions about the nature of creation, the steadfast faithfulness of God’s love, the nature of the body of Christ and the reality of Christian hope, he said adding that People living with HIV/ADS generally encounter fear, rejection and discrimination, and often are deprived of basic rights such as liberty, independence, security and freedom of movement, enjoyed by the rest of the communities.
He said that communities have long played a noteworthy responsibility in the fight against HIV, adding that their activism and support have to a great extent influenced the response to HIV/AIDS.
For adolescent girls and young women, communities could support wide-ranging sexual health education, leading the way in respecting their rights to independently access sexual and reproductive health services, he said adding that communities can help target negative social and gender norms that increase the susceptibility of young women.
Communities can also play an important role in holding governments accountable for ensuring that services are accessible to all those who need it.
In many regions, lack of education and resources are linked to increased rates of early marriage and child bearing, gender-based violence, condomless intercourse and transactional sex, he said adding that “These factors increase HIV transmission and impact, so a key intervention point is to empower adolescent girls through community participation.”
Director Kripa Foundation, Abou Mere said that populations (People Living with or affected with HIV, People who Use Drugs, Sex Workers, Men who have Sex with Men) have played and continue to play in the HIV and AIDS response at the international, national and local levels in achieving the 90-90-90 goals in many innovative ways.
In this, he said, it was decided that this year’s World AIDS Day would be commemorated with the theme ‘Communities make the difference.’
In the context of Nagaland, he said that key populations and NGOs have played a major role as a unique force behind in bringing down HIV infection.
“Their involvement makes a significant difference to many people’s lives, especially amongst injecting drug users. However HIV still continues to spread through sexual routes, and frequent stock-out of critical lifesaving ART medication in Nagaland has become a major public health problem with serious implications of drug resistance. PLHIV depending on NACO/NSACS ART drugs are made to undergo tremendous pressure and anxiety,” Mere said.
Mere said that Nagaland state still do not have viral load testing machine for monitoring viral load and quality management system (QMS) to determine treatment regimen.
“Therefore, we cannot afford to be complacent, we need to continue with our hard work to address these concerns,” he said.
He stressed on the need to continue with advocacy efforts and encourage NSACS and “our state government to be more ambitious in investing in evidence-based interventions that can accelerate strategies to promote and protect the rights to health and improve quality of life across the state.”
He said that Nagaland has the third highest adult HIV prevalence in the country at 0.76 %; and 91% of the cases in Nagaland are reportedly transmitted through the sexual route as per official estimates released by NACO and NSACS.
“Though the data suggests that sexual route accounts for the main route of transmission, there has been no scientific evidence-based study conducted to determine as to which groups of the population are driving the epidemic. It is therefore imperative to initiate a comprehensive review and in-depth study to understand the main drivers of the epidemic and develop our own state-specific innovative interventions with sustainable policies and resources from the state government,” he said.
Mere acknowledged the contributions of all the elected MLAs across party lines, who provided Rs. 1 lakh each every year and demonstrated significant political leadership in response to HIV and AIDS.
“With their help and support, substantial progress has been made and much has been accomplished, especially in reducing sigma faced by PLHIV and key populations,” he said.
He said that the existing funds for HIV prevention and treatment through NACO, Government of India is insufficient to sustain these critical life-saving programmes, “but unfortunately the Peoples’ Democratic Alliance (PDA) government has decided to discontinue the Nagaland Legislators’ Forum on AIDS (NLFA). Thus, the only source of state government funding and opportunity for political action with regard to the HIV program is no more. This may directly hamper our state’s ability to control the increasing new HIV cases among the general population.”
He said cutting funds and reduction of political will and action will cause serious setbacks to the HIV program, posing a threat to public health response that has the potential to undermine the hard won gains that Nagaland has achieved.
He appealed Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and all elected MLAs to reconsider their decision and continue support to the HIV/AIDS program with a new strategic plan and an implementable action model for Nagaland involving the Key Population communities.
“This would translate into effective action to address the multiple dimensions of the epidemic and ensure the highest attainable levels of public health for all,” he said.
Maintaining that “Communities make the difference,” Mere said “we need to continue our advocacy efforts collectively for more meaningful involvement and engagement of communities in policy and program development to ensure quality programs and services with easy access to health care services for all.”
Significance of the day was highlighted by Gwahinlo Seb, PO, NETSU, NACO.
The function was chaired by Vikholie Yiese while vote of thanks was proposed by Jacob Colney. (Page News Service)