Health Kalon’s Message on World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is observed every year on 1st December to remember those who passed away with the disease, support those who are suffering from the disease and make collective effort to prevent new infections and create an AIDS free generation. The global theme for World AIDS Day from 2011-2015, as selected by the World AIDS Campaign, is “Getting to Zero.” Zero New HIV Infections. Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-related Deaths. Backed by the United Nations, the “Getting to Zero” campaign focuses on the goals of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) global statistics, in 2013, 1.5 million people died from HIV-related causes globally. At the end of 2013, they were approximately 35 million people living with HIV and 2.1 million people becoming newly infected with HIV. These numbers are staggering and hence, HIV continues to be a major global public health issue.

As in well known, there is no cure for HIV infection. Hence, the responsibility is two-fold; prevention of new infection, and supporting those living with HIV both in terms of medical treatment in order to live a long healthy life, and social empowerment in order to live a productive life without discrimination. It is the responsibility of every individual to equip oneself with wholesome education on HIV and AIDS. Knowing and being aware is the first step towards prevention. After understanding the disease and its effects, it is a further responsibility to educate others and provide support to those already infected.

The Department of the Health of the Central Tibetan Administration has been successfully tackling the issue of HIV AIDS in Tibetan community over the years through its HIV AIDS Program funded by the Norwegian Church Alliance (NCA). The department focuses on four main activities; prevention of AIDS through widespread AIDS awareness campaigns in schools and settlements across India, provision of medical support for those living with HIV, provision of social support for those living with HIV through support group meetings and counseling, and strengthening the capacity of health care worker staffs to effectively manage HIV AIDS. Today, various Tibetan schools across India are commemorating World AIDS Day 2014 through various innovative activities in order to raise awareness and generate conscious responsibility among the young minds so as to achieve the goals of World AIDS Day theme of “Getting to Zero”. All the Tibetan settlements are also actively involved in commemorating World AIDS Day through our regional health centers. The social structure of Tibetan population in India, by the virtue of being a highly mobile community, exposes people to great risks of HIV and becomes highly vulnerable to new infections. In the month of December, the Department of Health is launching a mobile HIV AIDS awareness campaign targeted at educating Tibetan people at various sweater-selling areas across India. Currently, the department has over 30 people living with HIV program beneficiaries who regularly seek support and over 60 people living with HIV registered. We encourage more people with HIV to come forward and seek support in order to live a long healthy life and prevent death.

However, it must be remembered that in order to achieve the theme goal of “Getting to Zero”, it is not merely the effort of a day but it should be a continuous ongoing effort throughout the year. With these efforts in mind, the day is not far when we can actually achieve zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.