By Sirimal Pieris –
Getting to Zero with HIV and AIDS has become the goal of contributors to control HIV and AIDS. To make this goal a reality, many a devoted intervention and an immense responsibility is required. As well, it is the our bounden duty to fulfill those responsibilities and implement the activities. Therein, our discreet intelligence play an important role. Sometimes, there could be instances where we are compelled to discard our traditional theories and manipulate popular topics diligently. Representations against our traditional ideologies that may seem harmful to the average mind also may be indispensable. In the absence of endeavours for all these Getting to Zero will only be a slogan’
There are three objectives in controlling HIV and AIDS. They are: Getting to zero with new HIV infections; Getting to zero with AIDS related deaths and getting to zero with HIV related stigma and discrimination.
We must be attentive about steps to be taken regarding getting to zero with HIV and AIDS. Therein, the most basic step is testing blood to ascertain one’s HIV status. It enables individuals to clear doubts of being exposed to the virus. This is possible only through a blood test. One could doubt about being infected only if that person has had unprotected sexual contact with anybody or if engaged in unprotected sex acts with another who maintain multiple unprotected sexual contacts. Also, victims of sexual abuse with the exchange of sexual fluids or those who have had blood transfusion should get tested.
Knowing their HIV status by such groups is a tremendous support for the control of HIV and AIDS. It is an advantage as well. If their status was negative they can take protective measures against repetition of risky behavior. If positive, they could proceed with treatment and lead a normal life. Although these treatments are incapable of curing completely, positive living with HIV is possible with the infection under control. Due to the very same reason, incidence of new infections can be mitigated. Especially, it is very useful for pregnant mothers to know the HIV status because the same enables prevention of infection in the new born. The knowledge about the infection and treatment paves way for mitigating stigma and discrimination. Although the intensity is less compared to the situation earlier, people living with HIV are stigmatized and discriminated by the society because of the ignorance about HIV and AIDS. The end result would be harmful because those who want to know the HIV status would get discouraged leading to further infections. As such, Getting to Zero with stigma and discrimination is very important and compulsory. Therefore, it is our duty to ensure that awareness about HIV and AIDS is raised among all communities.
Sex workers, male homosexuals and drug addicts who inject drugs sharing surgical needles are identified as high risk groups. This necessitates educational interventions to change their risky behavior into safe behaviours. Without adherence to such a methodology, it is simply difficult to imagine about the control of HIV and AIDS. For educational activities among these groups, the support of one and all is very necessary. These programmes should be observed from a perspective of being stakeholders contributing to control HIV and AIDS but not as propgrammes which propagate collected information with a view to develop traditional attitudes. Therefore, journalists should act with responsibility when generating information about such groups. Those who exercise law should act in a reasonable and sensitive manner with an understanding about HIV and AIDS and assist the control of HIV and AIDS.
Sri Lanka has established a lot of facilities for the control of HIV within the country. Any interested person can attend an STD Clinic to get their blood tested following councelling in a strictly private and confidential environment. Without any referral by a medical officer, blood testing for HIV is available to any individual free of charge. The result of the test is not released to anybody else other than the particular person. If an individual is found positive, these clinics are committed to make arrangements for further testing and treatment maintaining strict confidentiality. Therefore we all should contribute with responsibility to Get to Zero with HIV and AIDS.