Publicity programmes about HIV/Aids have been conducted across Nagaland regularly but the battle against the disease is far from over. The government of Nagaland hosted Northeast’s first multimedia campaign on HIV on Monday in an attempt to combat the disease by reaching out to the public, especially the youth, and publicise prevention and treatment solutions.
Popular artistes both from the state and the region were roped in to perform at the event. So, it was obvious that the message would reach thousands of people loud and clear. It was a great idea because most people today may choose to stay glued to their mobile phone screens than attending a health-related event. Music did the trick this time.
It was all to eradicate HIV/Aids from the region. You may blame the state government of not doing enough to stop the spread of the disease, or blame the public for their sheer negligence and ignorance. But the fact is that thousands of people in the state are living with the virus. It is reported that out of 10,76,631 blood samples that were tested between 1999 and September 2018 in Nagaland, 24,218 samples were found to be HIV positive. There can be many unaccounted cases.
More than 1000 new HIV infections were recorded in the state in 2017 with Dimapur alone accounting for 60-70 new infections every month. According to the Nagaland State Aids Control Society, more than 90% of HIV transmission in the state is through unsafe sex, indicating that people could be unaware about their health status. This is dangerous for the society.
Nagaland is a small state. Theoretically, controlling an outbreak of any disease in the state should have been easy. But if the people don’t want to know or take precaution, it will be like trying to wake up a person pretending to be asleep.
The single-most important step to controlling the spread of the virus will be in getting to know one’s HIV status through blood test. It can help the patients live a healthy life through antiretroviral therapy besides preventing transmission.
For this to happen, the society should accept into their fold people living with HIV, and treat them like any other human being. Many hesitate to undergo tests because of fear; and for fear of being disowned by their community and family. The virus may affect the body but social stigma and discrimination can take away the very spirit to live.
People will come forward for HIV tests if the society doesn’t discriminate those who tested positive, and respect their wish to keep their health status discreet. Until such an environment conducive to their wellbeing is created, the virus will continue to spread under the carpet.