Imphal, Dec 1,
As in other parts of the world, the State also observed World AIDS Day under the theme, ‘Know your HIV status’ today. The State level observance was organised by Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MACS) at 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles ground with Governor Dr. Najma Heptulla, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and Health and Family Welfare Minister L. Jayantakumar Singh as the chief guest, functional president and guest of honour respectively.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Najma Heptulla said that it is imperative to make modifications and improvements in the State AIDS Policy statement so as to suit the changing circumstances and trend. She expressed hope that the experts and intellectuals in this field would give their suggestions which would be of immense help to the society in mitigating the bane of HIV/ AIDS. The Governor also appealed to the youths of the State to become more aware about HIV/AIDS issues and also to participate actively in the programmes and policies of the Government and NGOs in the fight against the disease.
Observing that the HIV/AIDS issue is no longer a mere health issue, the Governor said that it has covered all aspects of life - social, economic, legal, human rights and even political. The all-out and concerted efforts of the health officials and concerned activists of the State would not be sufficient in tackling this issue, she said while adding that civil societies have also to be actively involved. Stating that she would like to appreciate the role of NGOs and other agencies during the last two decades in providing preventive services and care to the people, Dr. Heptulla said that without the active role of the NGOs, the situation would have been worse.
The Governor urged the people living with HIV/AIDS not to indulge in high risk behaviour because they may contract the virus from their partners out of ignorance and negligence. She also said that she is in favour of promotion of voluntary HIV testing before marriage. Dr. Heptulla said that it is the responsibility of the society at large, particularly women, to have greater involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS to safeguard the future of Manipur. HIV testing is a must for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can live a healthy and productive life, she opined.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri N. Biren Singh said that though the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is declining in the State, there is still need for a collective hard work of public, NGOs and the Government to achieve the target of having no new HIV infection in Manipur by 2024. As per the records provided by the State Health Department, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the State is 1.43 % against the all-India rate of .022%, he added.
He observed that people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) should never be stigmatized and discriminated because they contracted the virus unknowingly. The disease can be tackled effectively only when PLHIVs are given the same respect and right as normal persons, he added. On the other hand, PLHIVs should also not get discouraged because many new inventions and medicines are coming up.
Regarding developmental issues of the State, the Chief Minister expressed serious concern that a large number of deserved people/households are not getting benefits under different Government schemes due to irregularities in data collection and dishonesty of the officials concerned. He said that many well-to-do individuals and families are found enjoying Government benefits meant for poor people, labour class and other weaker sections of the society. As such, those undeserved beneficiaries should surrender beneficiary cards before the Government takes action against them, he added.
It is a matter of concern that 36% of the population of the State is still under Below Poverty Line (BPL) though the per-head fund provided by the Centre to the State is three times higher as compared with the bigger States, the Chief Minister said. Shri N. Biren Singh said that if any well-to-do or Government employee is wrongfully enjoying benefit under a Government scheme, it can be well assumed that he/she has snatched away the right or benefit from a deserved poor person.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri L. Jayantakumar said that effective awareness is the only answer stigmatisation and discrimination of PLHIVs. Stating that HIV epidemic is a big challenge to the State, the Minister observed that there is need for a collective effort to eradicate the disease from the soil of the State.
CAF&PD Minister Karam Shyam, Forest and Environment Minister Shri Th. Shyamkumar, Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister N. Kayisii, Manipur Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker K. Robindro, MLAs, Chief Secretary Dr. J. Suresh Babu, Principal Secretary (Health) Vumlunmang Vualnam and other high ranking officials of the State Government also attended the function.
Earlier at the function, the Governor administered MACS’s pledge of World AIDS Day to the gathering. The dignitaries also distributed prizes of written quiz and on-the-spot painting competitions held as part of the observance. They also feted the best performing NGOs and District AIDS Control Officers (DACOs) with certificates and prizes. The Governor also handed over tablets to 25 ANMs each of Thoubal and Imphal West districts.
Later, the dignitaries also visited the stalls opened by different partner NGOs of MACS. A rally taken part by the members of NGOs, PLHIVs, school children, NCC Cadets, MACS employees and general public was taken out from Hao Ground to 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles ground as part of the observance.
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