Sunday, 12 August 2007

Stakeholders call for promoting greater access to HIV/AIDS

Stakeholders call for promoting greater access to HIV/AIDSrelated services

Imphal Free Press 10 August 2007

Bishnupur, Aug 9: As part of the campaign launched by the IndianNetwork for People living with HIV/AIDS (INP+) on July 11 at Chennai, aiming to create awareness among people living with HIV regarding treatment options, re-infection and reproductive health care issues in the 6 high prevalence states of India, the Bishnupur Network of Positive People (BNP+) conducted a interaction programme here at the conference hall of the district commissioner.

L Deepak, president of the Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+)said of the campaign, "The Central government in 2004 announced free ART for PLHAs in six high prevalent states of India. The National AIDSControl Organisation (NACO) expects 1 lakh PLHAs to access free ART by the end of 2008. However around 55,000 PLHAs have accessed it after nearly three years that the programme was launched. This nation wide campaign is aimed at creating awareness about the services that are available and to address issues that hamper access."

The campaign is planned in 102 districts in the six high HIV prevalence states in India - Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Nagaland. It will culminate in Lucknow on August 31, 2007. Through the campaign, the district level networks of positive people in all the 6 states will work in close collaboration with the local administration to promote access to treatment and services for positive people.

Reflecting issues that hamper access to services Bala (name changed), a member of BNP+ appealed, "Since there is no ART center at Bishnupur, I go to Imphal every month which means an expenditure of Rs. 100 on travel. The fear of stigma and discrimination is also there and there are people who are not availing free ART. Consistent sensitization programs are needed to reach out to the interior pockets of the district."

Established in 2000 with support from MNP+ the Bishnupur Network ofPositive People (BNP+) has today 155 members. Emphasizing the need formore PLWAs to come out and access existing services Samananda, secretary, BNP+ said that the district network has started forming self help groups (SHGs) so that PLHs are economically independent. "Besides existing services which are predominantly clinical PLHAs need a system which enables them to earn a livelihood".

Responding to the appeal, the chief guest of the programme, Aleng A SShimray, deputy commissioner Bishnupur said, "According to NACOguidelines, there should be a minimum of 500 PLWAs who are eligible for ART. I would like all of us gathered here today to reach out to as many people as possible, sensitize them about HIV/AIDS, motivate them for testing etc. I assure you all that we will take up our responsibility."

Appreciating the participation of various stakeholders in thediscussion, Abhiram Mongjam, state programme coordinator, Population Foundation India said "The need of the hour today is to look at what each one of us can do to promote access to services. I hope that we can look at consolidating our programmes and forging a partnership. In spite of free ART services, there are families that are too poor to afford traveling costs. We need to look at free travel for PLWAs when they come for ART while children need education support."

Th Deepak, the district social welfare officer promising his support to PLWAs and said, "There are schemes in place for women and children.Such interactions bring the need for integration of programs and I will support BNP+ members."

The interaction program was attended by PLWAs; the chief medicalofficer, Bishnupur; medical superintendent, district hospital, district TB officer, district Lions Club representative and representatives of NGOs working in the field. A unanimous decision was also taken to strengthen the district AIDS committee.

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