Along with the rest of the world, the Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) also observed the World AIDS Day 2021 on Wednesday with a flurry of activities.
The day began with a foot rally and a women bike rally which was flagged off at Ganesh Mandir Indoor Stadium, Khanapara by renowned sportsperson Ankushita Boro.
The theme of World AIDS Day-2021 is – “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics”.
The state-level function was observed at Madhabdev International Auditorium, Kalakshetra.
Welcoming the participants, Principal Secretary to the Assam government and Project Director, Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS), Anurag Goel said, “ Every year, the World AIDS Day is observed on December 1 to give an opportunity for people all over the globe to unite in the fight against HIV and extend our support for the people living with HIV.”
He further said HIV testing has been increased so that more and more HIV cases could be detected.
“Recently, there has been a rise in HIV cases and the main reason is that we have increased the testing through contact tracings. The increase in HIV testing reduces the spread of HIV as those who are tested positive are immediately put into treatment,” Goel said.
Speaking on the occasion as Chief Guest, Assam Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Keshab Mahanta said, “World AIDS Day is not a one day programme, it is a year-long programme and we are all warriors in the fight against HIV.”
Praising the efforts undertaken by ASACS for prevention and control of HIV, Minister Mahanta said, “Over the years facilities for testing and treatment of HIV has increased.”
“There are 39 Targetted Intervention (TI) NGOs working in the HIV programme and recruitment of 12 new TI NGOs is in the process.”
“There are 7 Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) centres and very soon the ART Centres at Diphu Medical College and Golaghat Civil Hospital will be made functional,” Mahanta said.
“There are 3 Opioid Substitution Therapy Centres and 3 more will be established in Nagaon, Golaghat and Dibrugarh,” Mahanta said.
He also spoke about the prison intervention programme where HIV testing is done amongst jail inmates.
The Minister further said, “When COVID-19 first came there was discrimination amongst people but now there is no discrimination and same is the case with HIV. Today the level of discrimination has come down.”
He said even HIV-related death rate has come down because there is treatment.
Well-known actor Aimee Baruah, who was a special guest on the occasion, said, “There is a need to speak about HIV openly. I became emotional when I heard the community speakers narrating their plight.”
“We should learn to embrace an HIV positive person. Let’s respect each other and if people do not learn to respect each other the community will never grow. We should come together and fight the battle against the HIV menace together,” she added.
Three speakers from transgender and injecting drug users (IDU) community narrated their experiences and urged people to come forward for HIV test.
They also thanked ASACS for providing all care, support and treatment.
Mission Director NHM, Dr Lakshmanan S, IAS also spoke on the occasion.
During the occasion, 4 individuals who have been relentlessly working in the field of HIV were felicitated.
They include Dr Nirada Devi, Director, SCERT, Assam, Dr Bhuban Ch Chutia, Assistant Professor and Red Ribbon Club (RRC) Coordinator, Nowgong College, Dr Bhaktimmay Bhattacharyya, District AIDS Control Officer, Nowgong and Drona Bhuyan, folk artiste.
“A blood donation camp was also organized at the venue. World AIDS Day has also been observed in all districts with rallies, public meetings and various awareness activities,” said a statement.