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Increasing access to testing among the Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) who have the highest HIV prevalence in Punjab..
-Kulbir Singh Kalsi||
Chandigarh, Kings XI Punjab, a community driven team has collaborated with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization providing medical care to AIDS affected patients through its India office, registered as India Cares. Under Kings XI Punjab’s social responsibility plan, the aim of this initiative is to scale up awareness and implementation of HIV counseling, testing and referral services to the vulnerable populations in India. According to UNAIDS, annually 1.6 million people die of AIDS-related causes and about 2.3 million people become newly infected. The focus of the collaboration is to increase access to testing among the Injecting Drug Users (IDU) community having the highest HIV prevalence in the world. Since Punjab shows the highest percentage of youth affected by drugs in the country, this endeavor aims at combating and raising awareness about one of the largest yet unspoken issues plaguing our nation.
During an awareness event conducted in collaboration with Post Graduate Government College for Girls, Sector 42, Chandigarh and a youth based organization Yuva where the collaboration between AHF and Kings XI Punjab was officially announced, Dr. Nochiketa Mohanty, Country Program Manager, AHF India said, “This would be a part of AHF’s 20×20 global campaign to scale up access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for at least 20 million people by year 2020. The larger objective of the initiative is to change the global mindset of people towards HIV testing and investing in treatment scale up that would eventually yield humanitarian and economic benefits.“
Mr. Fraser Castellino, Chief Operating Officer, Kings XI Punjab, shared that “HIV menace has engulfed the State of Punjab significantly due to widespread drug addiction. In an attempt to enhance the awareness and accessibility to care, KXIP and AHF India have collaborated in order to undertake steps to prevent any further escalation of the drug–HIV epidemic in catchment area. We have also produced a video “Say No To Drugs”, which will be disseminated through our digital portals in order to build awareness on this topic. We support AHF’s global campaign and believe that greater awareness and testing among these key populations will be required to attain to the 20×20 goal.“
“Many lesser economies like Sierra Leone in Africa have started following the updated guidelines and have shared their success stories in various international forums. Many countries in the African subcontinent are utilizing task shifting measures for HIV testing in order to increase accessibility within the community while keeping the implementing costs of the outreach programs low. If they can, India definitely can implement these strategies to reach out to more than 1/3rd of the total estimated 2.1 million who are unaware of their HIV status but there needs to be an enhanced political and bureaucratic commitment for the same. 20×20 is not an abstraction: if we all commit to getting at least 20 million people on treatment by 2020, we will take a conscious, critical step toward ending AIDS.” said Mr. Michael Weinstein, President, AHF