Kangra: Although the spread of HIV/AIDS is a major concern in India, only 61 percent of women age 15-49 and 84 percent of men age 15-49 have heard of AIDS, and Nationwide, only 17 percent of women and 33 percent of men have ‘comprehensive knowledge’ of HIV/AIDS as per the results of the third National Family Health Survey conducted recently.
A “Zindagi Zindabad” Campaign was recently flagged of in Kangra, the largest District in the State by the Dr A Mahajan, Chief Medical Officer, Kangra at Zonal Hospital Dharmsala. He told that various services were being given in the District under the National AIDS Control Programme. These include awareness through Red Ribbon clubs in Schools and colleges for adolescents, Condom Dsitribution through Indian Oil petrol pumps, promotion of voluantry blood donation, and all donated blood was screened for five transfusion transmittable infections including HIV in all the three blood banks of the district.
Mr BD Sharma, incharge of the multimedia campaign told that in Himachal over 90% had heard about AIDS, and comprehensive knowledge was among the highest in the country, we need to educate the people further. He further stated that the “Red Ribbon Wagon” includes exhibition in a mobile van, education through folk media shows, followed by discussion on HIV/AIDS and prizes for public throughout the district. The campaign lasting 50 days is conducting 2 shows daily at various places.
The unique feature of this campaign is direct interaction with people; previous campaigns were largely informative / educational in nature and had less community engagement. He further told that the objective of the campaign to develop an understanding about the infection to reduce stigma & discrimination against People Living with HIV and AIDS ; strengthen people’s knowledge about the measures to be taken to prevent HIV and AIDS infection; and disseminating information regarding primary prevention services. He emphasised that HIV does not spread by casual contact like sharing food, shaking hands, working or playing together or eating food prepared by HIV positives.
Dr RK Sood, Nodal Officer told that Kangra district had 748 HIV positive cases and 60 AIDS cases. There are five Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers in the District at ZH Dharamsala, Dehra, Palampur, Kangra and Medical College Tanda where confidential HIV testing services are available. The samples are tested thrice to confirm the report, as compared to private labs which conduct only one test. Regarding services for those who are positive under the programme, he stated that free Anti Retro viral Treatment is given at Medical College Shimla, and bus fare for the journey with one attendant is also reimbursed to them.
Milk powder is given to lactating mothers of infants who are HIV positive. Financial assistance of 300-700 per month is also being for children of HIV positives upto the age of 15 years, at the District Integrated and Counselling Centre. He hoped that the campaign would be able to generate people participation and decrease fear misconceptions, and empower people to protect themselves, and avail the benefit of free services provided by the government.