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India’s HIV & AIDS Act a positive step: Juster

India’s HIV & AIDS Act a positive step: Juster
Kenneth I. Juster (NP)
Correspondent KOHIMA, DEC 1 (NPN) | Publish Date: 12/1/2018 12:00:37 PM IST

Nagaland joined the global community in commemorating the World AIDS Day at the High School Junction, here Saturday on the theme “Live Life Positively, Know Your HIV Status”.

US ambassador to India, Kenneth I. Juster Saturday expressed optimism that the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017, which came into force from September 10, 2018, would be an important step in understanding the challenges faced by HIV and AIDS in India. 

Speaking as chief guest to mark the ‘World AIDS Day’ on the theme “Live Life Positively, Know Your HIV Status”, at High School Junction, Juster said the Act would also contribute to include access throughout India for HIV testing. Juster also appreciated the effort of the government of India in getting the Bill passed.

Terming this year’s theme as “appropriate”, the ambassador said the Indian government has recently passed the HIV bill that safeguards the rights of the people living with HIV.

“India’s response has been remarkably successful in containing the spread of the HIV with 27 percent declined in new HIV infections since 2010,” he said.

Juster also said he was pleased that the US government had played an important role in this region in fight HIV and AIDS.

He said President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is a US governmental initiative to address the global HIV&AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, have helped saved more than 16 million lives, preventing million of HIV infections and brought the world closer than ever to controlling the HIV epidemic. Ambassador said US has invested more than 80 billion dollar in the global HIV & AIDS response, the largest movement by any nation to address a single disease.

On this 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the ambassador said “we reflect this realm on a significant progress that has been made worldwide and we commit to doubling our efforts to control the HIV in India.”

Nagaland health and family welfare (H&FW) minister, S Pangnyu Phom, the chief patron, said 24,218 blood samples were tested positive out of the 10,76,631 blood samples tested from the year 1999 to September 2018 as per the data.  Phom pointed out that there were 70 ICTC facilities present across the state where free HIV testing were provided.

Phom also said that now the target should be to bring the remaining 50% of state population for testing. “There maybe people living with HIV but yet to know their status,” he observed.

Phom called upon the people to spread the message so everyone could know their status by getting tested at the nearest HIV testing facility. “We can know our status only through testing our blood for HIV”, he said, adding that HIV testing was essential for prevention. With treatment, all people living with HIV can lead a healthy and productive life, he maintained.

With regard to the HIV testing, Phom said the major barrier was stigma and discrimination that deters people from testing for HIV for fear of rejection and discrimination by the family or the community. 

Still there are many people who get tested for HIV only after becoming ill and symptomatic, minister said, adding “we must break all these barriers and encourage people to come.”

Dr. Melissa Nyendak, Branch Chief, Prevention, Care & Treatment- CDC India, in her short address, said there has been incredible progress in India, with a 27% decline in HIV since 2010. However, she said that the country needed to keep up the efforts to encourage all to know their status and get HIV tested to eliminate stigma and discrimination. 

Stressing on the importance of HIV testing, she also said that knowing the status was essential entry point to HIV care, support, and treatment and prevention services.  “Knowing your status also provides an important opportunity to learn and engage in harm reduction services to prevent the transmission of HIV,” said Dr. Nyendak.

She expressed hope that people could live long and healthy lives with early detection of HIV through testing, and proper treatment and care. 

Further, she called upon the society to support people with HIV, saying that it makes them easier for them to live healthy lives with dignity and respect.

Principal Secretary H&FW and chairman Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS), I Himato Zhimomi, in his keynote address, said the state still have a huge task to carry on despite the improvement seen over the years. He appreciated the US agencies for working with the state tirelessly in removal of AIDS in the state.

The event was compèred by Visievino Khrieo, invocation was given by Mhasiselie Theunuo, Pastor CRC, D’ Block Kohima and vote of thanks was proposed by NSACS project director Dr. Ngangshimeren. Chuba Kichu from Network of Kohima district people living with HIV/AIDS shared his testimony.

Meanwhile, in Dimapur, 1588 new HIV infections are said to have been reported in Nagaland last year. Around 60 to 90 new HIV cases were said to have been reported in Dimapur every month.


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