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Demand for more ART centres

Imphal, Nov. 26: A public rally against child rights violation in Imphal today demanded opening of more anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres in all the primary health centres of the state.

Anti-retroviral therapy combines at least three antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to suppress the HIV virus as much as possible and stop the progression of HIV disease.

The rally at Singjamei in Imphal West after a public meeting at Hao ground in the same area was organised by Wide Angle Social Development Organisation, an NGO working on women and child issues.

Other groups working on HIV and children issues also attended the rally.

The organisers said the members of Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights were invited to the rally. However, the members failed to turn up.

“ART centres should be opened in all the primary health centres across the state in addition to the existing ones at Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences and district hospitals,” a resolution adopted at the rally demanded.

The secretary of Wide Angle Social Development Organisation, Montu Ahanthem, said HIV patients from the remote areas fail to take the ART drugs regularly as they cannot afford to travel to far-off centres.

According to the State AIDS Control Society, at present there are nine ART centres and 11 link-ART centres.

There are centres at Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, both in Imphal city, seven district hospitals and some community and primary health centres.

Montu said these were not enough. “One HIV-positive mother and her child from a remote corner of Churachandpur could not visit the district hospital regularly to take the ART drugs because of financial constraints,” he said.

Manipur is one of the worst HIV/AIDS hit states in the country. Of 6,52,687 blood samples screened by October this year, 42,116 tested positive. These include 11,778 females and 2,773 children.

However, up to October this year, only 8,500 patients, including 3,475 female and 587 children are on ART drugs.

Official sources said because of lack of awareness not many patients were familiar with ART drugs.

The rally also demanded proper functioning of the Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The commission is yet to get a proper office space.

The participants in today’s rally carried placards protesting against rape/molestation of minors, recruitment of children as soldiers and demanding improvement of functioning of Anganwadi centres.

Speaking at the meeting, social activist and writer Dhanabir Laishram urged parents to ensure that the rights of their children were well protected.

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