New Delhi: Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Harsh Vardhan, inaugurated an event celebrating the World AIDS Day, organised by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), in New Delhi today. “Let us shun any kind of discrimination in our thoughts, actions and behaviour in our interaction with those who have HIV and AIDS. Let us do away with nomenclatures such as “AIDS/HIV communities”. Let us not bracket people who suffer from and have survived various diseases,” said Vardhan.
“While we have travelled a long distance in our fight against AIDS and HIV, there are still some significant milestones that need to be achieved for making the country free of HIV & AIDS by 2030, such as the lingering pockets of stigma and discrimination against those who have or have had AIDS,” he added.
Vardhan commended the immense contribution of partner communities who have played a yeoman role in spreading information about the disease, to dispel misinformation, fear and apprehensions, and helped people to access testing and treating services of NACO.
“You are our pillars of strength who have built bridges with the under-served, unserved and marginalised communities,” Vardhan said.
The global theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘Communities Make A Difference’. At the event, Vardhan awarded the various Red Ribbon Clubs that have mobilised the youth and communities across the country, saying more than 1,200 Red Ribbon Clubs have contributed to this collective effort.
Speaking at the event, Vardhan said that during 2018-19, around 79% of people living with HIV knew their HIV status, 82% diagnosed with the HIV infection are receiving free antiretroviral therapy, and 79% are virally suppressed, adding this means we are on the right track and our continued efforts coupled with calibrated momentum shall make this target achievable.
“One of the unique quests is adaptability and customization of strategies according to the need of the hour. NACO has revived and revamped its conventional prevention strategies to achieve the new targets. NACO is focusing on the combination of prevention tools and methods that are needed to end the AIDS epidemic.,” said Vardhan, adding that the program has also given focused attention to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The Minister emphasized the newer steps being taken by the Government of India to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending the epidemic of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, saying, “The basic target remains that of ‘Three Zeros’ – i.e. zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination”
Vardhan also said that in sync with the Ministry’s ‘Digital India’ campaign, NACO has strengthened its monitoring mechanism with more than 35,000 reporting units providing information on IT enabled systems.
Stressing on the need for a multi-faceted and multi-sectoral response, Vardhan said NACO has not only signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 18 key Ministries and Departments to augment a comprehensive AIDS response, but also with more than 650 industries of the public and private sectors to mobilize their support.
He commended the contribution of the pharma industry of the country which has supported other countries in their fight against AIDS through affordable drugs.
The event saw the launch of the NACO Mobile Application, new IEC Material for TI NGOs, Calendar-2020, Comprehensive Module for Private Practitioners on Management of HIV/AIDS, 2019 by Vardhan.
Two PLHIV members shared their experience of having survived the disease and the support they have received from NACO, and other support organisations for overcoming the stigma.
Also present at the event were Arun Kumar Panda, Secretary (MSME) & Secretary (in-charge), Health & Family Welfare; Sanjeeva Kumar, Special Secretary (NACO); Alok Saxena, JS (NACO); Bilali Camara, Country Coordinator, UNAIDS; Dr. Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative (India); and more than 1,200 members of partners and various CSOs, NGOs and BSF, CISF.