Shillong: Meghalaya is witnessing an increasing trend of new HIV infections. The adult HIV prevalence rate in the state is 0.42 percent, which is higher than the national average which stands at 0.21 percent.

This was informed by Dr. B Decruse, project director of Meghalaya AIDS Control Society. She said, “The estimated number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) is 8,692, out of those 4,996 know their status, 3,718 are on antiretroviral treatment (ART), 2,356 are virally suppressed. We can end both HIV and AIDS if inequalities are addressed and tackled.”

World AIDS Day was observed in Meghalaya on Thursday. This year’s theme was ‘Equalize’. The ‘Equalize’ slogan is a call to action. It is a prompt for all of us to work for the proven practical actions needed to address inequalities and help end AIDS.

The event was organised by the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society, Health and Family Welfare Department in collaboration with Meghalaya State Legal Services Authority and District Legal Services Authority, Shillong.

Speaking on the occasion as chief guest, Sampath Kumar, principal secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Department, said, “We need to be proactive in our support to bring about a change in attitude towards HIV and for the people living with HIV. Issues and challenges related to stigma and discrimination must be addressed by all communities so as to ensure that we reach that path of equality.”

“Teenage pregnancy is very much prevalent in our state and the risk of being infected with HIV among them is high,” he added. He urged all communities to create more awareness to safeguard the youths from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

NI Dkhar, chief judicial magistrate, assistant district & sessions judge and secretary of District Legal Services Authority, stressed the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017, and made aware of the importance of knowing legal rights and tackling HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

Z Sangma, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2019, shared his journey during the occasion. He also applauded the healthcare providers from ICTC, NEIGHRIMS, and also the Meghalaya State Network of Positive People (MSNP+) for their relentless support, through which he was able to overcome the difficulties and challenges and finally able to accept his status.

Sangma urged people who do not know their status to get themselves tested at ICTC and even if found positive advised them to step forward and take ART regularly. “We are always there to help and support you,” he added.

During the event, various centers, NGOs, and institutes were felicitated for their fight against HIV. Besides, a video titled ‘Rangli’ was released on the occasion.

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