Networking needed to remove HIV patients’ stigma: experts

May 20th, 2008 - 8:14 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) Awareness programmes are not enough to combat discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients, and more networking is necessary among all stake holders - the HIV/AIDS affected, health workers, NGOS and government agencies, said experts at a conference here Tuesday. Networking, not just among the HIV population and other stake holders, but also with the panchayat (village excecutive), the police and rights-based groups is necessary, it was concluded at a conference on challenges of reducing HIV-related stigma.

“Knowledge about what HIV/AIDS is or how is it spread doesn’t necessarily ensure that attitude towards a HIV-positive person changes,” Samiran Panda, vice-president of Sparsha, a voluntayr organisation working on HIV related issues in West Bengal, said at the conference.

“Stigma against HIV/AIDS is so deep-rooted that stand-alone programmes don’t really work. They may help in prevention up to a certain extent, but stigma against HIV makes people scared to come out in the open about their problems and get help,” Panda added.

Luke Samson, executive director of Sharan, another NGO, said that stigma and discrimination don’t just divide HIV and non-HIV sections but is also prevalent among the HIV community.

“Even within the HIV community, if you are a sex worker or an Injecting Drug User (IDU), then you will be discriminated against and will be in the bottom heap to get a medical attention and care,” said Samson, who works extensively with IDUs.

Samson said that since most IDUs suffer from tuberculosis or some other disease like Hepatitis, integrated treatment is required for them.

The sex workers are another vulnerable community.

But instead of talking only about the challenges that they face, Bharti Dey, a former sex worker, talked about the various steps that her community in West Bengal have taken up for their own betterment.

“I am the programme director of the Durbar Mahila Samanvaya Committee (DMSC) as a part of which we have established 33 self-regulatory boards in 33 red light areas in Durbar,” Dey said.

“These boards ensure that no minor is forced into this profession. We distribute condoms, have opened schools for children of the sex workers and hold regular meetings and workshops to ensure that none of the sex workers’ rights, as an individual, are violated,” she said.

Speakers also pointed out that many a time projects are carried out in accordance with the resources available, which in the long run fails to meet the objective of the programme.

“Projects must be planned in such a way that the effect of a project stays on with the community‚Ķa donor might have a stipulated time period for a project but one must take care to revisit the community time and again with the same message so that the ultimate aim is fulfilled,” Panda said.

The conference came to an end with Tisha Wheeler, senior programme officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, saying that donors, like them, ought to be led by people who do the ground work so that challenges can be identified and projects implemented accordingly.

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