Ramya Kannan

CHENNAI: For Tamil Nadu, the World AIDS Day 2007 was a milestone of sorts.

With the National Family Health Survey 3 putting the prevalence rate at 0.375 per cent, thus pulling Tamil Nadu out of the list of high-prevalence States, it became imperative for the managers of the epidemic to chart a new path of action in future.

While there was a fear in some quarters that the flow of funds would be hampered, it has ceased to be a concern anymore. Director-General of the National AIDS Control Organisation Sujatha Rao says: “Funds may not necessarily reduce too much. For Tamil Nadu still has a long way to go.” In her view, Tamil Nadu tends to spend more on IEC (Information, Education, Communication) campaigns and less on concentrated expenditure for the target groups. This would have to necessarily be an area of change.

Ms.Rao says: “It is time for the State to focus on where the virus is, what intensive methods could be adopted to handle these trouble spots.” Even as she advocates changes in approach, the Director-General is happy with the efforts being made to map the functioning of non-governmental organisations to eliminate duplication in field-level interventions.

Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society Project Director Supriya Sahu says: “I don’t see a stoppage of funds in the near future. However, we have new issues that we are addressing now.” She also emphasises that the early thrust on prevention and targeted intervention gainfully employed by the State to reduce prevalence should be sustained to prevent a reversal.

Some new areas of prevention that emerge include populations in rural areas, labour unions, factories, refugees, prisons and the police force.

Akhila Shivadas of the Centre for Advocacy and Research agrees that the “rural epidemic” remains a big challenge in Tamil Nadu, which calls for more intensive efforts. Ms. Sahu says interventions in these areas have already begun.

The TANSACS also sees the need to address the hitherto dormant issues of social security and human rights of the positive people. It is also focussing on providing social security for persons living with HIV/AIDS, especially women, single mothers or widows and destitutes. Ms. Shivadas points to the leading role Tamil Nadu must play as a State with a rich experience of fighting the epidemic. “Tamil Nadu is far ahead of the rest of the country in some areas. This needs to be shared and disseminated to other States, with appropriate alterations,” she says. Rama Pandian of TN Network of Positive People talks of the importance of effecting unity and co-ordination among the positive networks.