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Unless tackled with Zeal and dedication - AIDS can wipe out communities: Tibetan Health minister

April 14, 2009

My Himachal
PMH News Network
April 12, 2009

Various factors like tourist inflow,
in-migration, out migration, substance abuse
increase the vulnerability of Tibetan youth to
HIV. The Tibetan govt in exile is doing at lot to
improve access and up-scaling access to HIV
counselling and testing under which over two
thousand people have been tested so far and the
drive is raising awareness. Under collaborative
partnership strategy by the Himachal Pradesh
State AIDS Control Society with Department of
Health, Central Tibetan Administration the first
programme was held yesterday at Tibetan Primary
Health Centre Bir to build capacity in which over
85 community volunteers, social workers and local NGOs participated.

On the occasion, Mr Chope Paljor Tsering, Kalon
(Minister) for the Department of Health delivered
a message, which was read out by the department’s
special envoy. He stated that the spread of
HIV/AIDS knows no border, nor any gender race or
nationalities. He underlined the special need to
raise awareness among all Tibetans and to empower
them in preventing HIV/AIDS in the Tibetan
communities, both inside and outside Tibet.
Unless tackled with zeal and dedication, it has
the potential to wipe out entire communites. He
also underscored that the fear of contacting HIV
through other means than unsafe sex, blood
transfusion, unsafe syringes and needles, and
mother to child is unwarranted. There is no room
for isolating patients from community, rather
they should be given all possible assistance to
lead a normal respectable life in society.

Dr RK Sood District AIDS Project Officer Kangra
told the participants that a HIV positive person
can look healthy. As person is asymptomatic for a
long time, we cannot know HIV status from the
looks, if he is unaware of his status he can
continue to unknowingly infect others. With the
advent of effective ART, People Living with HIV
can live longer and healthier lives, akin to
lifelong treatment for hypertension which
prevents complications. The benefit of (Free) ART
can be availed only if we know our HIV status at
an early time, akin to detection heart disease by
ECG. Free and confidential quality HIV
counselling and testing is available in 5
Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres at SDH
Palampur, Kangra and Dehra, Zonal Hospital
Dharamshala Room 402 and Medical College Room 324
in the District. He appealed to all to avail the
benefit of free and confidential HIV testing,
which is the gateway to improved awareness and prevention.

Dr Anmol Gupta faculty of Community Medicine,
Medical College Shimla, 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. Those with
HIV/AIDS have the right to access care,
treatment, and appropriate health and social
services and be treated with equal dignity and
respect without discrimination against. He told
that his holiness the Dalai Lama preached
tolerance. He shared various scenarios through
games on safe behaviours and life skills to avoid
risk situations. He exhorted all participants to
facilitate the creation of an enabling
environment. Rajinder Kumar MEIO Dharamshala told
HIV is an emerging disease in the state, and we
need to address these issues at an early stage,
so that a proper attitude is fostered, which will
enable the people to seek and access counseling
and testing services, positive people can be open
about their status without fear of stigma. He
further elaborated that Under Prevention of
Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) campaign,
pregnant women are being made aware about the
risk of vertical transmission and know their status.

Sanjay Dogra, counsellor explained the process of
counselling, HIV testing, the problem of TB, and
demonstrated the correct technique of condom use.
During the occasion, Dr Sonam G Hara Executive
Secretary spoke on the modes of transmission and
prevention of HIV. He underscored that HPSACS has
reflected its growing commitment to up-scaling
the services by collaborating with new partners.
He shared the information that with ART, HIV
positives can live long and healthy life, but
difficulty in access to ART medicine was a
challenge as the ART centre was geographically
difficult to access, and requested the Indian
health authorities to open a link ART centre in
the District. Tsering Lhamo, President BTS and
local dignitaries were also present on the occasion.

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