Tibetan HIV/AIDS activists hold a large red ribbon, the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV, in Dharamshala on December 1, 2012 World AIDS Day.
DHARAMSHALA, December 2: Tibetans in the exile headquarters of Dharamshala observed December 1, World AIDS Day with programmes to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic.
Ever since the disease was first discovered in 1981, the day has become one of the most recognised international health days to increase awareness, fight against the prejudices, and to mobilise community at grassroots level in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
The Department of Health of the Central Tibetan Administration released a documentary film titled, ‘Breaking the Silence’ aimed at sensitising and educating the general masses on HIV/AIDS.
Addressing a press conference earlier in the day, Health Secretary Sonam Choephel Shosur said that HIV/AIDS is one of the major health challenges facing the world today and warned that it has already penetrated into the exile Tibetan community.
According to CTA, 130 HIV positive cases have been reported from Tibetan communities in various parts of India.
The Dharamshala based CHOICE—HIV/AIDS Initiative, the lone Tibetan NGO dedicated towards AIDS awareness and providing support to HIV patients, held a day-long awareness program with the theme — “Getting zero: Zero new infection, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths.”
Volunteers from the regional chapters of the Tibetan Youth Congress and Tibetan Women’s Association along with Students for a Free Tibet, India distributed posters and pamphlets in the town’s busiest intersections and screened documentaries to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS.
Speaking to Phayul, Phuntsok Chomphel, the project manager of CHOICE stressed on the importance of undergoing HIV tests, especially for Tibetans living in India as they fall under the ‘high-risk category.’
“Although India has reported a 50% decline in new HIV infection in the last 10 years, the vast landmass and huge population of India makes it the world’s third largest country living with HIV/AIDS infection,” Chomphel said. “The Tibetan refugee population living in India falls under high-risk categories due to high mobility, poverty and lack of access to proper healthcare facilities.”
According to the CTA Demographic survey of Tibetans in Exile 2009, HIV/AIDS is one of the 15 leading causes of death in the Tibetan exile community.
Chomphel further urged people to be “supportive and non-discriminative” of HIV positive people.
More than 25 million people have died so far of HIV/AIDS and approximately 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS according to the UNAIDS 2011 statistics.