Today on 1st December 2015, we commemorate yet another World AIDS Day to act against the deadly disease HIV AIDS. We choose this particular day in order to highlight the global and local plight caused by this disease, and to remind ourselves to renew our sincere governmental and personal efforts to combat the spread and burden of this disease. According to WHO statistics in 2014, there were a total of 36.9 million people living with HIV, of which 2.6 million are children less than 15 years of age. In the year 2014 itself, a total of 2 million people were newly infected with the virus and 1.2 million people had died of AIDS disease. The statistics clearly show that the disease still continue to endanger our lives and that even after varied efforts, we still need to put more efforts in getting to ‘zero infections’, as per the theme highlighted by the Global Steering Committee of the World AIDS Campaign (WAC). The multi-year theme chosen from year 2011 to 2015 is “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero death from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination.” The HIV and AIDS disease have become a global crisis that affect every corners of the world. We know that there is no cure for HIV, but it is very much preventable. Therefore, the single best way to stop the advance of HIV and AIDS is through education.
Within our Tibetan society itself, there are varied focuses of the population that can be considered vulnerable to this deadly disease. The Tibetan community, like many other conservative cultures around the world, faces difficulties to openly discuss about this condition due to cultural stigmas and sensitivities as well as a serious lack of comprehensive education on the subject. The Department of Health of the Central Tibetan Administration has an ongoing HIV AIDS Control Program funded by the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) that looks after the welfare of HIV positive Tibetans in its Indian diaspora. The goal of the program 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. The program has an extensive preventative aspect that focus on prevention for the general population, including special focuses every year on youngsters and school going children. Today is commemorated everywhere in the Tibetan settlements across India through the department’s health centers, and in the various schools run by the CTA as the World AIDS Day. We commemorate this day to educate each other about the disease and to remind ourselves of our efforts to prevent new infections and treat those already infected in order to create an AIDS-free community and an AIDS-free world in the future.
I have recently invited the TeachAIDS team led by its CEO, Piya Sorcar to Dharamsala to discuss the unique challenges of providing HIV education to Tibetan communities around the world. My relationship with TeachAIDS go way back when I used TeachAIDS materials to educate Tibetan school children about HIV and AIDS in the Tibetan settlements in Bylakuppe and Odisha. TeachAIDS is an award-winningnonprofitsocial enterpriselaunched by the prestigious Stanford University in the US. They develop health education materials that are culturally sensitive and medically precise, while being simple enough to be understood by all segments of society. The TeachAIDS movement, being used in more than 70 different countries of the world, has been a global success in imparting culturally appropriate education on HIV and AIDS through the use of a breakthrough software animation video.
Today, I have a very special announcement to share with you all. I am honored to inform you all that the Department of Health of the Central Tibetan Administration has formalized a partnership with TeachAIDS to develop a special animated HIV education material in our own Tibetan language that is respectful of our Tibetan culture and custom. I have admired their materials and leadership for years and I am immensely pleased to inform that this special TeachAIDS educational animation will be made available free of cost in Tibetan language to everyone. The Department of Health would like to thank TeachAIDS and the many volunteers we had for their significant contribution in developing this creative venture that is bound to help Tibetan communities everywhere in the world. I would also like to thank Dr.Tsetan Dorji Sadutshang and Phurbu T Namgyal for their contribution and cooperation in donating their time and voices for creation of this animation video.
The whole month of December has been dedicated for HIV AIDS awareness campaigns targeted at educating Tibetan people at various settlements, schools and sweater-selling places across India and Nepal. 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.
The future of our community rests with all of us. Together, we can stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Kalon Dr. Tsering Wangchuk