“Let us shun any kind of discrimination in our thoughts, actions and behaviour in our interaction with those who have HIV and AIDS. Let us do away with nomenclatures such as “AIDS/HIV communities”. Let us not bracket people who suffer from and have survived various diseases”. This was stated by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare as he inaugurated the event celebrating the World AIDS Day, organised by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), here today. “While we have travelled a long distance in our fight against AIDS and HIV, there are still some significant milestones that need to be achieved for making the country free of HIV AIDS by 2030, such as the lingering pockets of stigma and discrimination against those who have or have had AIDS”, he added.Dr Harsh Vardhan commended the immense contribution of the partner communities who have played a yeoman role in spreading information about the disease, to dispel misinformation, fear and apprehensions, and helped people to access testing and treating services of NACO. “You are our pillars of strength who have built bridges with the underserved, un-served and marginalised communities”, he stated. The global theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘Communities Make A Difference’. At the event, he awarded the various Red Ribbon Clubs which have mobilised the youth and communities across the country. More than 1200 Red Ribbon Clubs have contributed to this collective effort, he stated. Speaking at the event, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that during 2018-19, around 79% of people living with HIV knew their HIV status, 82% diagnosed with HIV infection are receiving free antiretroviral therapy and 79% are virally suppressed. This means we are on the right track and our continued efforts coupled with calibrated momentum shall make this target achievable. “One of the unique quests is adaptability and customization of strategies according to the need of the hour.
NACO has revived and revamped its conventional prevention strategies to achieve the new targets. NACO is focusing on the combination of prevention tools and methods that are needed to end the AIDS epidemic.” Dr. Harsh Vardhan added that the programme has also given focused attention to elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV. The Union Minister emphasized upon the newer steps which are being taken by Government of India to achieve Sustainable Development Goal of ending the epidemic of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, “The basic target remains that of ‘Three Zeros’ - i.e. zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination” he said. Dr. Harsh Vardhan further said that in sync with the Ministry’s ‘Digital India’ campaign, NACO has strengthened its monitoring mechanism with more than 35,000 reporting units providing information on completely IT enabled system. Stressing on the need for multi-faceted and multi-sectoral response, Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated that NACO has not only signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 18 key Ministries/Departments to augment a comprehensive AIDS response but also with more than 650 industries of public and private sectors to mobilize their support. He also commended the contribution of the pharma industry of the country which has supported other countries in their fight against AIDS through affordable drugs.The event also saw launch of the NACO Mobile Application, new IEC Material for TI NGOs, Calendar-2020, Comprehensive Module for Private Practitioners on Management of HIV/AIDS, 2019 by Dr. Harsh Vardhan. Two PLHIV members shared their experience of having survived the disease and the support they have received from NACO, and other support organisations for overcoming the stigma.Also present at the event were Dr. Arun Kumar Panda, Secretary (MSME) & Secretary (in-charge), Health & Family Welfare, Sh. Sanjeeva Kumar, Special Secretary (NACO), Sh. Alok Saxena, JS (NACO), Dr. Bilali Camara, Country Coordinator, UNAIDS, Dr. Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative (India) and more than 1200 members of partners and various CSOs, NGOs and BSF, CISF.