Breaking the Ice- HIV sensitisation for transporters in the hill town of Dharamshala, Himachal

aids4Dharamshala: A one day sensitization workshop on HIV AIDS was held on 25 March at Dharamshala Workshop campus for staff of Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation in which over 60 drivers, conductors, mechanics and ministerial staff of HRTC interacted with experts and learnt the important issue to protecting themselves from HIV/AIDS. The workshop was presided over by Mr. AN Salaria, RM Dharamshala. Speaking on the occasion, he stated that transport is vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and we need to educate all to empower them to protect themselves.

Dr AK Gupta and Doctors from Medical College Shimla discussed the A (Abstinence), B (be faithful to partner), and C (Correct and consistent use of Condoms) of HIV and how it can be prevented. Sex is a biological phenomenon and we need not keep it a taboo, while keeping the discussion culturally sensitive and not vulgar, we can talk about protecting ourselves. He further stated that with the advent of effective ART, PLHIV can live longer and healthier lives; but the benefit of ART needs to be availed by knowing about the HIV status.

ids3Rajinder Kumar, MEIO shared the information that free and confidential quality HIV counseling and testing is available in 5 ICTCs in the District, where anyone can walk in and get a free counseling and testing facility.

Dr Saurabh clarified the difference between HIV and AIDS, a person living with HIV can look healthy, as there is a long asymptomatic period and person still transmit the virus through high risk behavior if he is ignorant of his status.

Dr RK Sood, DAPO Kangra dispelled the myths and misconceptions related to condoms in free supply. He demonstrated that the condoms are of good quality and do not rupture reality, he also demonstrated the correct technique to condom use. Condom gives dual protection- contraception as well as protection from HIV.

Dr Saurabh further discussed the issue of stigma and discrimination and addressed the fears of participants to shake hands, sit next to PLHIV, share food and drinks, and desensitised their fears through role play. Some participants also interacted with PLHIV and clarified myths regarding spread and casual contact.

Dr AK Gupta also discussed the issue of blood scarcity, importance of voluntary blood donation in blood safely and HIV prevention and addressed the fears and misconceptions of weakness related to blood donation. Blood is a life saving medicine, which works wonders in certain diseases. Our society is today threatened by scarcity of blood. Any person between the age of 18- 60, with weight more than 45 kg can donate blood and the body replenishes the 350 ml in 48 hours, and red blood cell in 3 months. He also asked the participants to organise blood donation camps.

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