Politics of HIV/AIDS

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hiv prevalence in indiaINDIA - The ball for the forth-coming 9th Assembly election campaign is set rolling already. The surprisingly ever busy politicians, ironically the people alleged that they have done very little in spite of their staunch self-proclaimed stand that they have been busy, are at their busiest now. Every party, big or small worth all the imaginative promises, is out to woo the votes of "our HIV/AIDS infected and affected brothers and sisters who have been unfortunately marginalized by the society".

In Manipur, the ruling as well as opposition parties suddenly seem to wake up to the HIV/AIDS reality that is writ large in the state. One party after the other is holding political advocacy programme on HIV/AIDS aggressively to woo the people living with HIV/AIDS by including their issues in the election manifestoes. Dr Khomdon Lisam, a well-known medical practitioner in the field of HIV/AIDS said in one of the political advocacy programme that political parties should take up HIV/AIDS as the most important priority. He said that maximum numbers of youths in Manipur have lost their lives not to bullets but to drug and HIV/AIDS. Truly, as pointed out by the doctor, the person who was shot dead is flashed in media the very next day but we often lack knowledge of a neighbour who died due AIDS.

It is a commonly understood reality that the political will to address HIV/AIDS is most important and is completely absent in Manipur. Being the first state to have a State AIDS Policy in South-East Asia, the Manipur State AIDS Policy maintains that "the state government of Manipur consider AIDS problem as a great public health challenge requiring immediate government action and that the government is fully committed to effective and efficient implementation of the AIDS control programmes ...state government shall provide adequate budget for proper implementation of the programme at state, district and community levels".

In spite of being regarded as a high prevalent state, there is no monetary allocation for HIV/AIDS in the annual budget of the state government. HIV/AIDS issues and promises to fight it still continue to have big presence in the election manifestoes.

The lack of the Manipur government's political will to stem the increasing tide of HIV/AIDS is there for all to see. However the politicians do not shy from using HIV/AIDS in the election campaigns targeting the right to vote of a PLHA and not the other rights and issues of that person. Such insensitivity is, simply put, very unfortunate for the situation in Manipur is very complicated now. Giving lip service, that too with vested interest, is the last thing required at this stage. Five years of SPF government have actually ignored the slow entry of the virus from the risk population to general populations.

How aware is the health minister about HIV/AIDS? What about the officers under him, starting from the Health commissioner? What were the Oppositions doing when more and more unsuspecting mothers were tested HIV positive and many children were introduced to this beautiful experience called life with a virus they have nothing to do with? Politicians will shout and show sympathy and maybe even work in connivance with NGOs to make the show more genuine. But the people need not wait for another 5 years to see the result. The results are already in front of us. Today Ukhrul has suddenly sounded the alarm by having high prevalence of mother to child transmission in entire India. It has been reported that Tamenglong is also slowly going to be a problem if timely actions are not taken.

It has been proven by experts and political scientists that governance, either good or bad, have direct repercussions on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Instances of good governance marked by sincere political commitments to combat HIV/AIDS in Thailand, Uganda and Senegal have shown positive results in stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS. Donor nations are linking good governance to the release of funds for combating HIV/AIDS.

Are the politicians in Manipur aware about the problems of PLHA? Do they know that HIV positive children are given medicine by breaking the tablets meant for adult risking them to adverse side effects and, still worse, drug resistance? They cannot be activists but having some factual knowledge would go a long way in saving their faces in public forum. If they are unwilling to show the political will to meet the challenges of HIV/AIDS, they should refrain from showing fake sympathy. All said and done, the truth remains unchanged that the government is the most important stakeholder in fighting HIV/AIDS.

source -  KanglaOnline