The Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), the nodal agency working for spreading awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the state, has engaged 28 NGOs for the purpose of creating awareness, identification, counselling and care of the HIV-infected patients in the state.
These NGOs in turn have engaged several former sex workers and HIV patients working for them, who are not only helping them reach out to their former community but also overcome the stigma associated with the disease.
“These NGOs engage pure educators and outreach members most of whom are either former sex workers, drug users or HIV patients," a senior official of the MSACS said.
"They help us reach our target group as no one here either talks about sex or HIV openly,” a senior official of MSACS said.
He said that the employed NGOs under this programme worked under the operational structure of one project director, followed by a counsellor, nurse, outreach members and pure educators.
It is the outreach members and pure educators category under which former sex workers and HIV patients are engaged to identify target groups of female sex workers, drug users, he said.
The VOLCOMH is one such NGO among 28 which is working for the prevention of the affliction and the spread of awareness among masses.
“Out of 12 pure educators, four of them are former sex workers and we also have an HIV patient in this entire operational structure.
Engagement of these people have helped us a lot as it would have been impossible to identify our target group,” said P C Lalhmangaiha, project director, VOLCOMH.
According to the HIV Sentinel Surveillance 2010- 2011 survey conducted by the Mizoram State Aids Control Society (MSACS), which has brought out a complied data of the status of HIV virus prevalence in the state till 2008, has shown a sharp decrease in pervasiveness of the lethal disease among all the target groups which includes pregnant woman, drug users, female sex workers and STD patients.
“If you compare the data of HIV prevalence for the last few years till 2008, then the prevalence has come down drastically. It is now 0. 7 per cent. Our efforts and especially the former sex workers have helped bring down the prevalence," said Betty Lalthantluangi, Joint Director, MSACS.
According to the survey, the HIV prevalence in pregnant women has come down from 2.08 per cent in 2003 to 0. 85 per cent in 2008.
In the female sex workers category, the prevalence has come down from 14 per cent in 2005 to 9.20 per cent in 2008.
Among drug users the prevalence has come down from 7. 25 per cent to 5. 28 percent.
The MSACS in this financial year has set a target to reach out to 1120 sex workers across the state.
“Through these NGOs we have already reached out to 900 sex workers. Out of these 900, 92 have tested positive for HIV virus,” said the official.
Asked about the mode of functioning of the NGOs, the official said, “Once the sex workers and high risk groups are identified by the pure educators and outreach members, we convince them to take a HIV testing, then sexually transmitted diseases testing, general healthcare, provide them with condoms free of cost, female condoms and lastly counselling.”