Shillong, Dec 1: With an aim to bring people together and unite to show support for people living with HIV and to remember people who lost their lives from AIDS-related illnesses, World AIDS Day was observed in the state on Thursday with this year’s theme ‘Equalize’.
The “Equalize” slogan is a call to action- A prompt for all to work for the proven practical actions needed to address inequalities and help end AIDS. The inequalities which perpetuate the AIDS pandemic are not inevitable and can be tackled.
The event was organized by the office of the Meghalaya AIDS Control, Society, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Meghalaya in collaboration with Meghalaya State Legal Services Authority and District Legal Services Authority, Shillong on Thursday at the office premises.
Speaking on the occasion as Chief Guest, Principal Secretary to the Government of Meghalaya, Health and Family Welfare Department, Sampath Kumar said that, “We need to be proactive in our support to bring about a change in attitude towards HIV and for the people living with HIV. Issues and challenges related to stigma and discrimination must be addressed by all communities so as to ensure we reach that path of equality.”
He further mentioned that, “Teenage pregnancy is very much prevalent in our state and the risk of being infected with HIV among them is high”. He urged all communities to create more awareness to safeguard the youths from HIV and other sexually transmitted Infections.
Chief Judicial Magistrate, Assistant District & Sessions Judge and Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, N. I. Dkhar, stressed on the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) ACT, 2017 and made aware the importance of knowing legal rights and tackle HIV related stigma and discrimination.
Project Director, Meghalaya AIDS Control Society, Shillong, Dr. (Mrs) B Decruse, who gave the welcome address, while deliberating on the significance of the day, said Meghalaya is one of the states in India with increasing trend of new HIV infection. “Adult HIV prevalence rate in our state is at 0.42% which is higher than the national average which stands at 0.21%. An estimated number of PLHIV is 8692, out of those 4996 know their status, 3718 are on Antiretroviral Treatment (ART), 2356 are virally suppressed,” she informed and mentioned that HIV and AIDS can be ended if inequalities are addressed and tackled.
Z. Sangma, who was diagnosed with HIV on the 29th December 2019, sharing his testimony during the occasion applauded the healthcare providers from ICTC, NEIGHRIMS and also the members of the Meghalaya State Network of Positive People (MSNP+) for their tireless support through which he was able to overcome the difficulties and challenges faced and finally able to accept his status. “I have come to a stage whereby I am virally suppressed and I am now healthy because I take ART regularly,” he said. Further, Z. Sangma urged the people who do not know their status to get themselves tested at ICTC, and even if found positive, to step forward and take ART regularly. “We are always there to help and support you,” he added.
As part of the observation, other activities conducted were felicitation of various centers, NGOs, institutes, etc. for their fight against HIV, display of placards with messages prepared by students, performances by various artists and HIV theme song sung by the band LYNX, who are also the brand ambassador of HIV and AIDS programme and the release of video titled “Rangli” produced by S. Sun, a staff of ART Jowai.