“Big is not necessarily beautiful, small messages for awareness building with prevention as focus works better in the case of AIDS control,” Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health, said here today. At the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MICT), Dr Harsh Vardhan observed, “Big hospitals may lead to better treatment, but if state-of-the-art IT education tools are used to disseminate information that will prevent killer infections, the investment is more worthwhile.” The partnership between the Health Ministry’s Department of AIDS Control and the Department of IT and Telecommunications is expected to engender a society with heightened knowhow on HIV infections. The networks of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (in Mumbai and Delhi) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (rest of India) will be the chief vehicles of this “mainstreaming” of AIDS awareness. This strategic tie-up will give a boost to the Ministry’s entrenched activities like putting up banners, posters, etc., in areas dominated by risk groups and display of other promotional material in public spaces. Combating discrimination of HIV-AIDS victims is also a part of the drive.“The goal of zero-HIV incidence cannot be achieved only unless the disease’s spread is addressed holistically. Mainstreaming and partnership building are key in the national AIDS control programme’s multi-sectoral response,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said. The Department of AIDS Control is already providing preventive, care and support treatment services through 1,873 targeted interventions , and its network of 1,131 STI Clinics, 1,137 blood banks, over 15,000 integrated counselling and other infrastructure.
The Minister said that information about these services needs to reach all the people in the country, especially those who are most at risk for HIV. At present, India has about 2.1 million people with HIV infections –roughly 0.27 percent of the population. About 90 percent are in the 15-49 age group. This group, Dr Harsh Vardhan noted, is quite savvy in contemporary forms of connectivity and could easily be targeted through mobile telephony and social media. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) has a major role to play in spreading information on prevention and services related to HIV, the Health Minister noted. MCIT will also facilitate effective management of strategic information through National e-governance, Community services centres, and through push-based SMS, etc. Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister, MICT, said the collaboration will work through Common Service Centres which, apart from spreading knowledge, will also encourage voluntary blood donation and facilitate access to Social Protection schemes. He added that MICT plans to connect 50,000 panchayats with a broadband optic-fibre network during the current financial year. Over the next two years another 100,000 would be added.