Alarm Bells on AIDS

On October 12, 2006 the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) Chief, Sujatha Rao in the presence of senior political leaders sounded an alarm on the AIDS scenario in Nagaland. The observation that the state is heading for a South African like situation should be serious enough of a warning that the fight against HIV/AIDS should now be taken up in a mission mode. Leaving aside the comparison, what should be of concern is the looming threat that if the spread of HIV is not checked, the State could well end up facing a generation vacuum, besides severe economic and social problem arising out of the epidemic. Elected representatives, Secretaries, Head of Departments and key stake holders present at the Durbar Hall of Raj Bhavan during the special meeting convened by the Governor will have taken note of the grim scenario that was revealed by the NACO.

It is extremely disturbing to note that in Nagaland the age of infection is low, rapid progression from HIV to AIDS is high, and the age of death is low as well. There is a clear message to this: The most productive section of society remains in danger of being incapacitated. Further unlike in other states of the country where HIV/AIDS infection is mostly amongst the poor people, in Nagaland it is the middle class and well to do who are mostly infected through drug abuse, NACO has disclosed. As a consequence, the numbers of persons who are made pauper by HIV/AIDS are also on the rise. All this suggests that the socio-economic capacity of society will be greatly weakened if the epidemic continues to spread.

Although, Nagaland has been successful in reducing infection amongst the Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs), infection through heterosexual mode has become alarming. It is also obvious that despite the massive launch by the State government machinery in collaboration with the NGOs little have been achieved in changing the behaviour of the people, which is making it difficult to fight the further spread of HIV/AIDS. This may necessitate some changes in the containment strategy to combat the epidemic in Nagaland. Besides, more innovation and ideas have to be explored to deal with the emerging scenario. And also going by the trend of just how the epidemic has started to spread from the high risk groups to the general population, even the need for going in for a multi-sectoral approach may have to be re-altered to one of implementing a collective approach involving every section of society. 

And since unlike in other states, Nagaland has unique community strength, this element can be incorporated in the policy framework with the purpose of strengthening the collective response to fight the epidemic. The platform of the Church with its wide reaching influence must be continually enhanced to take on the challenges faced in prevention, care and community support. For this to happen, a paradigm shift in the mindset of those who lead the masses is urgently required. Hopefully, the Churches in Nagaland will take it upon themselves to timely respond to this growing crisis and more so given the threat posed by HIV/AIDS is taking its toll on the health and vitality of society especially of the younger population. And given the seriousness of the issue, developing the right approach in a manner that is sustainable and workable in the local context therefore requires urgent attention.