By Navneet Kaur, 6 June : Stigma and discrimination are the major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Fear of discrimination prevents people from seeking treatment for AIDS or from acknowledging their HIV status publicly. There are approx. 450 HIV+ve People living in Chandigarh. Out of these about 140 have AIDS and are taking treatment from the ART Center, PGIMER. Among the High Risk Groups, the prevalence of HIV in Chandigarh is highest amongst the Intravenous Drug Users (8.6%). The MSMs have lower prevalence (3.6%) and Female Commercial Sex Workers the lowest (0.4%). As unsafe sex is the commonest reason for spread of HIV, abstinence and Condom use is the only prophylaxis.
To be safe from HIV and to remove stigma and discrimination and also to bring the spirit to live and let live, Chandigarh State AIDS Control Society organized a big cycle rally to generate AIDS awareness among the general population of the city. About 700 Youth and workers including people from High Risk Groups came together to participate in this cycle rally and distribute pamphlets throughout the city.
The cycle rally flagged off from three different corners from urban slums of the city. The first batch of cyclists was flagged from Lal Bahadur Shastri Colony Sec. 56, second batch was flagged off from Colony No. 5 and third batch of cyclists was flagged off from Bus Stand Ramdarbar. The rally passed through different sectors of Chandigarh and finally converged at Student Centre, Panjab University, Sec. 14, Chandigarh.
A gala awareness programme was organized at Student Centre, Panjab University. Shri Ram Niwas IAS, Home Secretary-cum-Secretary Health, UT, Chandigarh was the Chief Guest for this function.
A pledge to fight against HIV/AIDS was administered by the Chief Guest. All the dignitaries and the volunteers holding placards in their hands raised their right hand and took the pledge. A resolve was signed.
Dr. M.S. Bains, Director Health & Family Welfare said that this campaign will encourage people to break the silence and the barriers to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care and will also help in removing the stigma and discrimination attached with it.
Dr. Vanita Gupta, Project Director, State AIDS Control Society, U.T., Chandigarh while presenting the current scenario of HIV infection in the city said that it is very important that every one join their hands in this fight so that we have “Zero New HIV Infection City”.
Red Ribbons along with Halogen air filled balloons were released during the function. The volunteers formed a human chain and raised slogans motivating people to avoid stigma and discrimination.