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Campaign on hepatitis kicks off

- Actors to help drive

Imphal, July 10: The Hepatitis-C co-infection among drug users and people living with HIV in Manipur has become a serious health problem with the state government groping in the dark to tackle the situation, experts said.

According to a 2009 report of the Indian Council of Medical Research, 98 per cent of the HIV intravenous drug users in Churachandpur district were found to be co-infected by the virus, 92 per cent in Imphal West district and 52 per cent in Bishnupur district.

The project director of Manipur AIDS Control Society, Shailesh Kumar Chourasia, and secretary of Manipur Legislature Forum on HIV/AIDS, Ibohalbi Singh, admitted that there was no concrete action plan in the country to tackle the co-infection.

Given the situation, a yearlong Hepatitis-C advocacy campaign, which was kicked off by an Imphal-based NGO, Community Network for Empowerment, with support from the state health directorate was welcomed by the experts.

The campaign was kicked off in a simple function here today. The programme underlined the need for joint efforts by all the stakeholders, government, NGOs and public.

“During the year-long campaign, we, with support from the government agencies, will hold a series of programmes like creating awareness among the school and college students, radio and TV talk shows, street corner meetings and distribution of leaflets and posters,” R.K. Nalinikanta, president of the NGO, said.

The NGO, a state-level network of 14 community-based organisations, garnered support from well-known Manipuri film actors.

Posters carrying pictures of actors, including Bonny and Abenao, with messages would be distributed during the campaign.

The actors will also take part in the programmes, which will continue till the World Hepatitis Day (July 28) in 2015. The campaign will cover all the nine districts.

Nalinikanta said the most important part of the yearlong programme was screening for Hepatitis-C of all the risk groups at all the district hospitals. The state medical department had agreed to the proposal. “The findings of the screening will form a data on the virus and can be the basis for an action plan. Right now there is no concrete data of the situation in Manipur,” Nalinikanta said.

Official sources said the state government constituted a high-level panel named Committee for Assessment of Hepatitis-C in Manipur last month. The committee, however, is yet to hold its first meeting.

Ibohalbi Singh, who was the chief guest at the inauguration of the campaign, today stressed the need to amend the Manipur AIDS Control Policy to bring the issue of H-C under the policy as chances of co-infection was very high.


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