“In 2003, I would have died but for counselling. At that time there were not as many anti-retroviral therapy centres as there are now. But counselling saved me from death,” said P. Kausalya, president of the Positive Women’s Network, recounting her struggle to stay alive with HIV infection, in a minute-long speech.

Her message rang across the Pitti Theayagaraya hall in T. Nagar on Saturday, observed as World AIDS Day.

A series of programmes were held on the occasion by non-governmental organisations and the State government. The day began with a rally on the Marina Beach by Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS), followed by the inauguration of six new anti-retroviral therapy centres in various towns and release of new logos and themes for posters. The society’s focus this year is on raising awareness on the infection.

Health minister V.S. Vijay, who inaugurated the activities, said AIDS or HIV infection makes one an easy prey to a cluster of infections as the virus destroys white blood cells, weakening the body’s resistance to diseases. If AIDS and HIV infections were under control at present, it was due to the emphasis on diagnosis and testing facilities introduced in the State, he explained. It was the same emphasis that had resulted in testing for diagnoses of dengue.

According to him, more people are diagnosed with dengue in the State as the Elisa test had been made mandatory for confirmation of the infection. So far 35,000 had undergone the test and 9,000 had tested positive for the infection, he added.

The theme for this year World AIDS Day was a continuation of last year’s, which was ‘Getting to zero’, said Nicholas Manring, chief, visa section, US Consulate. The World Health Organisation theme for 2011 to 2015 is getting to zero. The world campaign would focus on zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, Mr. Manring said.

According to him, there are 34 million people with AIDS worldwide and the US government was dedicated to making all efforts to involve the civil society in prevention programmes. So far, 4.5 million people world over were covered under anti-retroviral therapy but the aim was to reach six million people, he said.

S. Noorie, president of South India Positive Network, used the opportunity to extend an appeal for restarting community care centres in the city and sought speedier disbursal of the monthly dole of Rs. 1,000 that the government provided for persons living with HIV.

Keywords: World AIDS Day

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