Health Secy calls for measures to address HIV-related issues

M’laya 5th in prevalence of nationwide HIV cases

SHILLONG/ NONGPOH/ NONGSTOIN, Dec 1: Commissioner and Secretary of Health, Sampath Kumar, has called for concerted efforts in creating awareness on preventive measures to address health issues related to HIV and AIDS even as he informed that Meghalaya ranks fifth in the country in terms of prevalence of HIV cases and second in the highest number of cases of a sexually transmitted disease called syphilis among pregnant women.
Sampath Kumar, who is also the president of the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society (MACS), was speaking at the observance of World AIDS Day at U Soso Tham Auditorium here on Tuesday. The programme was thematised on ‘Global Solidarity and Shared Responsibility’.
Meghalaya, along with the rest of the globe, observed the occasion to show support for people living with HIV and in remembrance of those who lost their lives to AIDS.
The programme was organised by MACS in collaboration with the Meghalaya State Legal Services Authority (MSLSA).
Speaking as the chief guest, Kumar stated that COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the importance of healthcare and the need to bolster the health system.
Praising the role of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and MACS for their continued efforts in educating the masses on HIV and putting an end to stigmatisation, he stressed on the importance of testing and adherence to treatment.
Moreover, NA Khan, District and Sessions Judge and Member Secretary of the MSLSA, spoke at length about the legal framework available to safeguard the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS.
To mark the occasion, ‘Freestyle for 15’, an Instagram sports event contest, and a theme song on HIV/AIDS called Stand Up, composed and arranged by state’s renowned artist, Lamphang Syiemlieh, were launched on the day. Also, prizes were distributed to the winners of the ‘Promote HIV Testing’ contest.

Persons living with HIV
A total of 5,107 cumulative persons living with HIV were registered till October, 2020, while as many as 4,355 cumulative persons living with HIV have started antiretroviral therapy. The number of females (2,508) detected with HIV is more than that of males, which is 2354.
It was also informed that 2,169 females and 1,956 males have started the antiretroviral therapy.
The health secretary expressed concern that some percentage of people discontinued the therapy while stressing on strict adherence to the treatment. “There is a need for 100 per cent adherence to the treatment”, he said.
Stating that there has to be free conversation of the young people with parents, Kumar said NGOs looking after the welfare of the persons living with HIV also play an imperative role in breaking the silence.
Meanwhile, a programme was also observed on the occasion at the Sajer Community Hall, Nongpoh, which was organised by the office of the District Medical & Health Officer, Ri Bhoi, in collaboration with the MACS, Shillong.
DM&HO of Ri Bhoi, Dr M Mawrie, speaking as the chief guest, advised the public to discard the stigma and avoid discrimination against people affected by HIV/AIDS, which, according to the official, can affect their mental health. Instead we should help, support and accept them as one of us while encouraging them to go for treatment, the DM&HO added.
He also lauded the ASHAs, who he encouraged to continue spreading awareness on HIV/AIDS to the people at large.
The resource persons of the day included E Ranee, ICTC counselor Byrnihat PHC, who spoke on ‘Talk on world AIDS day and HIV/AIDS’.
Ranee informed that more than 4,000 were affected by HIV and registered themselves.
Joining others, Nongstoin, West Khasi Hills, also observed the occasion under the theme ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS’ through a programme organised by the office of the DM&HO, Nongstoin, in collaboration with MACS and Urban Mission New Nongstoin, at Nonbah Market.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr P Lyngkhoi, Medical Officer, MMU, National Health Mission, West Khasi Hills, informed that 58 people from the district are affected by HIV/AIDS.
The occasion was also observed by the District Legal Services Authority, Nongstoin, at the New Market Complex.
SPARK’s initiative
Understanding and realising the prevailing situation, SPARK, a social organisation, organised a special programme on the World AIDS Day following their theme ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact’.
The organisation held a programme at the Bara Bazaar Slum and Mawlynrei Triashnong village with over 150 participants, who were sensitised on the reason behind the spread of HIV.
They were also informed that with proper care and medical health, it is possible to live a healthy life. The SPARK has encouraged the community to seek medical assistance if any symptom of HIV/AIDS is experienced.
Drawing competition
Unlike the stereotype means of disseminating awareness on HIV/AIDS, the Meghandini Mahila Samiti in association with Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Shillong, organised an online drawing competition on the theme ‘AIDS Awareness campaign’.
Altogether 48 participants registered in the event through WhatsApp.

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