Political Will in HIV/AIDS Response

The Guwahati conclave on November 19 organized by the Parliamentary forum on HIV/AIDS featuring all the elected representative of the Northeastern States, from the Panchayat level to the heads of Government in the region including Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Peter Piot only goes to show the sense of urgency being now acknowledged on the daunting reality that the dreaded HIV/AIDS menace stalks the region.

That HIV/AIDS is posing a threat to every aspect of the vibrancy and health of the already declining population, is a serious warning deserving the utmost political attention. The declaration adopted and signed by representatives of all the states must now be translated into an action that embraces and empowers every person/s and institutes to collectively and cohesively work together. The HIV programs must now grow from bill-boards and seminars to collective participation of all members of the community. This aspect must not be lost sight of by those who design policy and implement them. 

The show of political will in signing a joint declaration will now be put to test in the local context in every state of the north east.  In Nagaland, the much talked about ‘Legislative Forum headed by the Chief Minister’ is already in existence since August 2003. Formation of an important forum like this is effective only when it is functional in the real sense and proactive in its commitment. The Forum must now prove its vitality through its initiative in openly discussing HIV/AIDS in every platform and monitoring every aspect of HIV programs all over the State. As pleaded by the head of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, they must make sure that the funds are reaching the people on the ground and are best used.  

Given the gravity of the problem, international funds will soon flow in and it is extremely important to ensure that this monetary intervention provide and sustain the programs to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis. International funding agencies must not remain ‘funders of the program’ but become active participants of the programs which mean they will be required to come and live with the people in the region. The decision of UNAIDS and NACO to open their regional offices in Guwahati for the Northeast is a welcoming move and one that would go a long way in effective monitoring, implementation and assessment of the different programs. 

Leadership at all levels must ensure that all the 100,000 HIV positive people of the region have an access to all services including treatment. The recognition of the uniqueness of the North East HIV/AIDS epidemic is an important milestone. This uniqueness however, must not concentrate only on the ‘Golden triangle’ and heroin-flow story. India, being the highest producer of illegal drugs, must admit that these drugs are abundantly made freely available in market places and state borders and that young people are using and abusing these drugs not only illegally but against all medical procedures. Therefore, HIV/AIDS intervention programs in the region are inevitably linked to Drug Abuse intervention and treatment.  

The broad political support in generating and sustaining this full-fledged response will now depend largely on the commitment shown through the collective pledge of those who gathered and discussed at this first ever Guwahati conclave for HIV/AIDS.