With 445 HIV+ve cases, Sikkim cannot rest easy or stop combating stigma

Gangtok, 30 Nov:

The first HIV+ve case in Sikkim was detected in the year 1995, a decade since the Virus arrived in India. It broke the 3-figure mark in Sikkim sometime in the year 2008, and as of today, Sikkim has reported 445 cases of HIV/ AIDS.

As far as prevalence rates go, Sikkim ranks very low, stands in the second-last position in fact as per the latest report of the National AIDS Control Organization which records that average HIV infected persons in the State [per lakh population] stands at 0.05%. NACO has also felicitated Sikkim for the same with a certificate and memento.

The low prevalence rate notwithstanding, HIV remains a worry, and this ties in effectively with the theme for this year’s World AIDS Day, “Know your Status”, a theme which aims to convince more people to get tested for HIV and not limit such testing only to the high-risk groups.

World AIDS Day, falling on 01 December, is aimed to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. The Sikkim State AIDS Control Society is all set to observe the Day with a variety of programme in Gangtok.

This was informed by the Project Director, SSACS, Dr Uttam Pradhan, at a press meet here today.

The SSACS office here will host awareness programmes and felicitation of various organizations and individuals working in the field of AIDS control and awareness, it is informed.

“World AIDS Day is the day which focuses on spreading awareness and eradicating the stigma associated with the disease,” highlighted Dr Pradhan.

The purpose of observing the Worlds AIDS Day is to educate people about HIV: on how to avoid catching the virus, to reduce stigma surrounding those who live with it, and to raise awareness and encourage people to have themselves tested for HIV, he added.

Each year, the campaign has a specific theme. The theme for this year is “Know your HIV status, Live Life Positively.”

The aim of this year’s drive is to encourage people worldwide to get themselves tested.

This becomes important, as according to a report, very few people living with HIV are aware of their status. This also raises the risk of the illness spreading unknowingly on account of various reasons that causes HIV/ AIDS.

Dr Pradhan said that people are afraid to take the HIV test because there is too much stigma around HIV testing and status. “On the occasion of World AIDS Day, we talk about some of the top reasons why people refrain from getting themselves tested for HIV,” he added.

SSACS, in association with the Sikkim Mahila Patrakar Sangh, will be holding a candlelight vigil at Titanic Park the same evening. During the day, there will be street plays at various locations in and around Gangtok.

SSACS, in association with the Drug Users Forum of Sikkim, will also organize an awareness programme at Sikkim State Jail, informs Dr Pradhan.

He said that HIV/AIDS is like any other disease nowadays and everyone should come forward for the test without any fear.

Dr Pradhan also informed that the World AIDS Day is being observed in all four districts with a variety of awareness programmes and HIV-testing options in different locations.

The Red Ribbon Clubs will also play a vital role in organizing various awareness programme during the observance of World Aids Day.

This is the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.