A district-level media consultative meeting on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome was held here recently to discuss ways to step up measures to check the spread of HIV and to remove the social stigma attached to the disease.

Organised by the Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society (TANSACS) and the Centre for Advocacy and Research, the meeting was in the form a consultation with the media on how various issues relating to the disease could be reached to the public.

Releasing a booklet on HIV/AIDS for the media, Joint Director of Health Services M. Doraikannan said stepping up preventive measures and also the support services for the affected at the district-level were important.

In order to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission Programme was being implemented in all Government, medical college and district headquarters hospitals and also Primary Health Centres.

From January last year, 16,058 women underwent voluntary HIV testing at 26 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres. Of these, 40 women were found to be HIV positive and were brought under the Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission Programme.

As on February 2009, around 3.125 persons living with HIV were provided free Anti Retro Viral Therapy that helped in increasing the life span and also quality of life of the affected.

Dr. Doraikannan appealed to the media to work for the creation of an atmosphere wherein HIV positive persons and other vulnerable groups such as sex workers and transgenders were treated with dignity.

Joint Director of TANSACS Alex Parimalam said that the State had 1.84 lakh people living with HIV, as per the estimates in 2007. The State was a role model for the rest of the country in terms of projects for the prevention of HIV and also treatment and care.

But, there a need to fight the stigma that prevented HIV-affected people from availing themselves of the support services for rehabilitation.

A woman living with HIV said at the meeting that stigma was the main impediment to availing of these services. Appreciating the media’s contribution so far in highlighting such services, she said it should continue so that persons with HIV could break out of the shackles imposed by the stigma and benefit from the programmes introduced for them.

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