By: Rajesh Sood
Empowerment of positive people is essential to facilitate a constructive & enduring HIV/AIDS response. A meeting of the positive people was held at Dharamshala on 6th Dec 2009 as part of the World AIDS Day Campaign celebrations in which over 40 positive & their family members participated. Dr RK Sood, DAPO Kangra told that the theme for World AIDS Day 2009 is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’. Global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care, recognising these as fundamental human rights. Valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet we have miles to go to achieve the goal of universal access as less than half of those in need of antiretroviral therapy are receiving it.
Positive people face stigma & discrimination within families, health care facilities & society which is a barrier to universal access to treatment. The creation of support systems & networks help to improve the quality of life & make the positive people contribute meaningful role in the society, to lead the fight against AIDS. People shared their perspectives. Representatives from HPVHA attended the meet.
The protection of human rights is fundamental to combating the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV, putting marginalised groups, such as injecting drug users and sex workers, at a higher risk of HIV infection. By promoting individual human rights, new infections can be prevented and people who have HIV can live free from discrimination. The framework of human rights pulls together many issues including the right to information, right to treatment, non- discrimination as well as the right to health. Human rights & universal access are very broad & encompassing themes that complement each other when combined.
The Dharamshala declaration by the positive people called on the government to expedite the upcoming ART centre at Tanda to facilitate universal access to ART for people in the region. They also called upon all sections of society to hold hands and act with tolerance and support; they urged all to shed irrational fears and misconceptions – “people should not be afraid of us, and we are not infectious like flu”. The declaration also called upon all to know their HIV status and if negative- remain negative; if positive- avail the benefit of Free ART and live a long and healthy productive life.
CMO Kangra Dr Anil Mahajan told that the Government of Himachal has also initiated welfare schemes for care & support for HIV positive people including financial assistance for children up to age of 15 years, provision of free ART & reimbursement of bus fare for patients on ART. In District Kangra alone over 182 people are registered for financial assistance & an amount of Rs. 11,17,900 disbursed to the beneficiaries during the financial year 2008-09.