NACO to engage Indian Idols, church in AIDS control prog in North E

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New Delhi, Oct 12 (UNI) The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) today launched a 9 million dollar worth Joint Programme for HIV and AIDS and care for North Eastern states and has decided to engage winners of Indian Idols Amit Paul and Prashant Tamang and hold dialogue with church for HIV/AIDS prevention in the region which has the highest prevalence of infection in the country.

NACO Director General Sujatha Rao told UNI that NACO would approach Indian Idols Amit Paul and Prashant for its HIV/AIDS prevention programme as they have a huge fan following in North Eastern region. ''They will be very helpful in our AIDS control programme,'' she said.

Launching the programme, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Panabaka Lakshmi hoped that it would bring down the infection rate substantially among injectable drug users and transmission of HIV infection from mother to child. Under the programme, capacity building would be done through imparting skills and use of modern technology such as telemedicine and upgrading technical capacities. The programme would also focus on rehabilitation of AIDS orphans and widows by advocacy and mobilisation of the community.

North Eastern states Manipur and Nagaland have the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS at 1.7 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively followed by Andhra Pradesh while the prevalence rate for the country was 3.6 per cent, Ms Rao pointed out and said NACO would open its sub-Office in Guwahati to decentralise its efforts to support state level interventions and partnerships to prevent and check spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.

Admitting that acute shortage of trained human resources was a major challenge for the HIV/AIDS prevention programme in the North Eastern region, Ms Rao said the new initiative being launched in association with the 8.9 million dollar financial support of the Australian Government and technical assistance from Sweden would fight AIDS in Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram where the infection was first fuelled by injectable drug use and now spreading to general population through hetro-sexual transmission.

Pointing that the available human resources in the region lacked adequate qualification required for HIV/AIDS programme, she said Australia, which has the expertise in drug related HIV, would help in the training of the medical and paramedical staff in the region .

She said the training programmes and telemedicine conference would be organised by NACO, the central government not only focusing on doctors but nurses and paramedical staff also.

Asserting that church was also a ''serious barrier'' in HIV/AIDS prevention programme in the North East especially in Nagaland, Ms Rao said though abstinence and fidelity were very fine, but church should recognise that the youth were involved with multiple sexual partners which was responsible for the spread of infection.

Pointing out the huge influence that the church had in Nagaland community, she said NACO has held talks with church leaders to convince them of promoting use of condoms.

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