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HIV-related stigma, discrimination discussed

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Feb 6 � In order to address the issue of stigma and discrimination of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-infected persons especially in health institutions across Assam, an workshop titled �Addressing HIV related Stigma and Discrimination in Health Care Setting and Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) Data Dissemination� was organised in Guwahati on Thursday.

The day-long workshop was conducted by Assam State AIDS Control Society with support from the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati.

The programme was inaugurated by Dr Rathin Bhuyan, Director of Health Services and was attended by medical officers of both government and private hospitals.

In his inaugural address, Dr Bhuyan said, �Along with the rise of HIV in the region, the menace of stigma and discrimination is also on the higher side of the ladder.�

He urged the medical officers and staff to treat all patients equally in the hospitals.

Welcoming the participants, Dr PN Talukdar, Additional Project Director presented an overall view of the HIV/AIDS scenario in the state.

Dr Ved Prakash Gautam of UNICEF said, �Stigma and discrimination mainly affect the children, adolescents and women and thus this menace must be addressed urgently.�

Shalini Bharat of Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, speaking on the issue, said, � Stigma reinforces the discrimination of the poor and the marginalized section which is already there in the society.�

President of Indian Network of Positive People, Jahnabi Goswami said, � Stigma and discrimination related to HIV is there in every sphere � be it in health set-ups, in religious institutions, in educational institutions, work place- but it is very sad that the Government has not taken any step in this regard.�

She further lamented that despite assurances, no government has done anything to pass the HIV/AIDS bill in the Parliament which has been lying for the last 10 years.�

�There is a lack of knowledge amongst the people and also the stigmatized victim does not know whom and where to report. A strong advocacy is required,� Jahnabi added.

Dr RR Gangakhedkar, Director of National AIDS Research Institute, Pune stressed on the use of universal precaution by the medicos while dealing with the patients.

�Risk factor is more while dealing with the HIV negative patients rather than the positive ones. Because there is a certain level of complacency on the part of the doctor while dealing with the negative patients as the patient may be in the window period,� Gangakhedkar added.

Dr Chiranjeev Bhattacharya, State Epidemiologist, ASACS updated the participants on the three publications released on the occasion. He also enlightened the participants on the HIV/AIDS research activities in the State.

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