SHILLONG: Considering that the prevalence of HIV in Meghalaya is higher than the national average, all 60 MLAs of the state would actively participate in combating the disease by raising awareness among the people. The first meeting of the governing body of the reconstituted Meghalaya Legislators’ Forum on HIV/AIDS was held here on Friday. As many as six agendas in connection with ‘People Living with HIV’ (PLHIV) were discussed in the meeting, which was presided over by Assembly Speaker Thomas A. Sangma.
The agendas include healthcare access, social support programmes, employment and skill development, education and awareness campaigns, nutritional support, and legal aid services. After the meeting, the Speaker told the media that the legislators’ forum on HIV/AIDS involves combating the disease by raising awareness among the people. He said that the meeting addressed not only healthcare concerns for PLHIV but also social, economic, and stigma issues, where legislators can assist people living with HIV/AIDS and integrate them into the mainstream.
The legislators of the state have agreed to contribute from their schemes or discretionary grants to assist PLHIV. Sangma said, adding that additionally, in Friday’s meeting, it was decided that all 60 members of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly should actively participate in the forum, as their support would greatly aid in combating this disease. The Speaker lamented the fact that the prevalence of HIV in Meghalaya is higher than the national average. He said that in the meeting, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma stated that the government would be working in mission mode to reduce the spread of this disease in Meghalaya.
“The Chief Minister also suggested that there are already programmes sponsored by the central government and those sponsored by the state government that should not be overlapping. The Legislators Forum would work at a different level, where we can see that our approach would be slightly different from the regular or routine work that the AIDS Control Society and the state government are doing,” the Speaker said. The state’s opposition leader, Ronnie V. Lyngdoh, expressed that through the Meghalaya Legislator’s Forum on HIV/AIDS, legislators can work on raising more awareness to tackle social stigma. He emphasised that legislators can contribute to the cause not only financially but also socially.
Drawing inspiration from the Philippines, where incidents of HIV/AIDS were reduced through the involvement of various non-government organisations, Lyngdoh stated that in Meghalaya, the Seng Samla, Seng Longkmie, and the Dorbar Shnong can play a role in spreading awareness about the disease and ending the stigma against PLHIV. “The Chief Minister’s suggestion has come at a very crucial time. In the graph, as you have seen in other states, HIV/AIDS has come down, and in our state, it is on the rise. More needs to be done, and it has to be in mission mode; we need a targeted approach on how to reduce the incidence of infection,” the opposition leader said. (IANS)