The “National Family Health Survey 3 (2005-06)” reported that, only 6% of rural women and 16%Â urban women in Himachal Pradesh knew the location of the nearest Govt HIV Testing facility. As per District Level Household survey 2007-08, only 5.4% of married women have undergone testing HIV in the region, compared to 11.3% the national level. HP SACS is striving to increase utilization of free HIV Counselling & Testing Services. “Know your Status” drive aims to raise awareness about facilities as well as provide services at the doorstep in an outreach mode.
People need to learn their HIV status- if they are negative they can be relaxed and take precaution for future to remain negative. If they test positive they can avail the benefit of free treatment, which is available at Shimla and Hamirpur by HPSACS, and live long & healthy life with Anti Retroviral Therapy. As on 30 Sep 09, a total of 4013 people in the state have tested positive for HIV in the state of which 1010 are from the District of Kangra.
Confidentiality concerns are a barrier to acceptance of HIV test. The fears of stigma after disclosure, stigma of taking the test lead to denial of risk behavior. Innovative strategies need to be developed to work around these barriers.
Under the Know your status campaign on way in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, located in the western Himalayan region of North India, some such experiments have led to success in increasing the uptake of HIV Counseling and testingÂ services, which are the gateway to universal access to ART.
The programme employs a Behaviour Change Communication Â strategy on Why one needs to know his status, risk of unsafe injection and medical procedures like dental extraction by RMPs and village practioners, (Discussion on low risk behavior makes it easier for people to get publically tested without fear of stigma) prompting decision to get tested, the message is reinforced by the options after positive result including a long life with Free ART. This is followed by educating the clients on benefit of – HIV Test in Government ICTCs over private labs which donâ€™t have counselor and 3 test strategy.
Outreach testing services are offered by staff of HPSACS with group pre test counseling, blood samples are collected on the spot and follow-up post test counseling session are conducted after an interval of 3-7 days. This also helps in normalization of the test, and creation of enabling environment in the hill district.
On the occasion of Police commemoration week celebrationsÂ a series of HIV counseling and testing cum testing camps were held atÂ IRBN 2nd Battalion Sakoh (Dharmshala) andÂ PTC Daroh (Palampur) in which 540 people got themselves tested and availed the free and confidential services. Most people who are HIV infected don’t know their status till they develop AIDS. A HIV positive person can be clinically healthy and the only way to know one’s status is through a blood test, akin to early detection of heart disease by ECG.
In the events CMO Kangra Dr Anil Mahajan told about the various national health programmes. 40 Youth donated blood at the Blood Donation Camp held at Daroh on the event. TheÂ jawans also formed a Red Ribbon formation as pledge of commitment against the deadly disease.