Drug menace and the HIV reality The fight must go on

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), alleged excesses of security personnel, fake encounters with the Supreme Court of the country having taken note of it, law and order situation (though situation has improved in the last few years), the drug menace etc and all these taken together go on to underline the substance of the sentence ‘making it to the news for all the wrong reasons’ and this is Manipur. This is on the law and order front and take things a little further and Manipur ranks right up there in the rate of HIV prevalence amongst adults. A small State, with a population of just about 30 lakhs and juxtapose this against the 28,000 people living with HIV and the figure gets more disturbing. Take a look at the matter a little deeper and it can get disturbingly close to the drug menace, given that HIV was previously chiefly associated with the intravenous drug users. HIV landed in Manipur sometime in the middle of the 80s and those were the days when drugs were understood as morphine, heroin and tablets such as Podrom, Hyptogen, Calmpose etc before the ‘more modern drugs,’ at least here, such as WY tablets, brown sugar, opium etc made their appearance. The came the drug manufacturing units, negating the earlier line ‘Manipur is a transit zone for drugs.’  The easy availability of drugs, particularly heroin, went hand in hand with the burgeoning cases of HIV  and it did not take long for Manipur to be right up there amongst the States with high prevalence of HIV amongst the youths. HIV has claimed countless number of lives and while earlier it was cases of drug overdose that seemed to kill a good number of young injecting drug users, HIV replaced this as the number one killer. Now thanks to the progress in science, timely intervention today can ensure that a HIV positive person can lead an absolutely normal life via antiretroviral (ART in short) therapy. In the case of Manipur it is from drugs or intravenous injection of drugs that HIV made its way here and today the spread of the virus is not only via the contaminated needle but also through sexual contacts and this is a cause for concern, for situation is such that every leikai in Imphal must have heart rending stories of young, naive young girls contracting the virus from their husbands and then passing it on to her children. Many such young and innocent girls have succumbed to the virus and herein lies the story of how AIDS and drugs have taken a toll on the society of Manipur.
Along with the advancement in science, notably the arrival of antiretroviral therapy that enables a HIV positive person to lead a normal life, it is also significant to note that HIV does not come with the stigma that it used to earlier. Intense media campaign and education have certainly gone a long way in clearing misconceptions down the years and today it is not uncommon to see certain individuals admitting that they are on ART. This is progress in the fight against HIV and in as much as science will be further probed and studied to see if a cure can be found to deal with the virus, it is important that society continues to accept that AIDS is also another disease and it makes  no sense to strike a high moral ground while addressing the HIV positive person. Doing away with discrimination and the shame that is associated with the virus can certainly go a long way in helping to curb its spread. It is only when people willingly come out to declare their HIV status that it can help in checking the spread of the virus. Drugs have and continue to take a heavy toll on society and it would be misplaced to address the issue of HIV in isolation of the drugs menace, for remember the two may be said to have landed one after the other in Manipur. A permanent cure for AIDS may be something far off, but the least that people can do now is to say a big no to drugs and this is where all co-operation ought to be extended to the War on Drugs campaign of the State Government.