On December 1, 2019, Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP) celebrated World AIDS Day along with the STI/AIDS Network of Bangladesh, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and various NGOs under the theme “Communities Make the Difference” for recognizing the essential role that communities can play in combating AIDS at the international, national and local levels. On this occasion, communities of different sexual orientations, people living with HIV AIDS, various national and international NGOs and government organizations brought out processions from the Asadgate intersection on the early morning and paraded different thoroughfares before ending at the main Program Venue at the Krishibid Institution Bangladesh (KIB).
OKUP along with other NGOs and Aids activists take part in a colorful rally to mark World Aids Day. As migrants’ health is one of the core areas of working of OKUP, their banner reads: “Migrant Workers Rights are just Human Rights”.
At the KIB auditorium, the program started with a documentary show to inform and encourage the attendees about the continuous global and national efforts to prevent AIDS. Indeed, the people-centered care, community, and civil society engagement for AIDS prevention are included in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. The documentary also showed Bangladesh government’s extended support for comprehensive treatment for AIDS across the country which covers the Rohingya community in Bangladesh too. Representatives from WHO, UNFPA, World AIDS Day Celebration Committee, and government representatives from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare all were present in the meeting and delivered their speeches. As the effective AIDS prevention needs enhanced awareness building on the pre-exposure and post-exposure of aids infection, participants agreed their positive views that communities might serve as a unique force behind the success of the HIV response in Bangladesh.
Speaking at the event, Health and Family Welfare Minister Jahid Malek MP assured that Bangladesh would be able to achieve the goal of eradicating AIDS from the country by the year 2030. The country has already screened 200,000 people for HIV test and is targeting for maximizing the coverage of this facility, along with proper treatment across the country. The Country Representative of UNFPA urged the government for reducing social vulnerabilities of HIV affected people and extending support for building an environment where people will be able to exercise their human rights. Mr. Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of Health Department, Mr. Asadul Islam, secretary of the health ministry; and Mr. Samiul Islam, line director of the AIDS/STD Programme also delivered their thoughtful words at the event. Overall, on coherence, participants shared their positive views on increasing the STI/AIDS engagement and better health policies for extending the coverage for AIDS treatment and removing the social stigma and misconception about HIV.
- Of the estimated 5.9 million people living with HIV AIDS in Asia and the Pacific at the end of 2018, HIV prevalence remains less than 0.01% among the general population in Bangladesh. The estimated number of people living with HIV is 14,000 (919 cases have been newly filed as HIV positive in 2019) which is quite low compared to other countries of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. One of the key contributors to this success goes to the community networks and community health workers, many of whom are living with or affected by HIV.
- People who inject drugs (also known as PWID) are among the groups most vulnerable to HIV infection. In fact, people who inject drugs are 22 times more at risk of HIV compared with the general population. Awareness is required to keep the youth from drug addiction.
- Governmental stakeholders along with the WHO representatives recommend for increased rapid testing, prevention, treatment and care of HIV AIDS in community settings for key populations in Bangladesh so that they know their HIV status and build a comprehensive strategy for AIDS prevention.
- Migrant workers, being separated from their spouses or families and familiar social and cultural norms, language barriers, substandard living conditions, and habituated with exploitative working conditions, including sexual violence, are often falling prey to HIV infection. The shortfall of health care for migrant workers is very common in origin, transit and destination countries. In order to reduce the migrant workers’ chances of spreading the HIV virus and control the disease, prompt treatment with antiretroviral drugs can be a crucial course of action.
- Since activism and civil society action have been key resources in the HIV response from the early days, national and global efforts are necessary to fulfill integrated cooperation for increased equity, respect for health, sexual orientations and human rights. It is high time we break the gender stereotypes and change our attitudes towards the people who are living with AIDS.
People visiting OKUP’s exhibition stall and knowing their services at the KIB
After the discussion session, exhibition stalls were set up by different national and international NGOs to promote their organizational value and bring their services to the visitors altogether. It also offered an opportunity to mingle and connect with the human rights activists, people of different sexual orientations and their organizations and the common people to break the social barriers through networking. Participants also organized a quiz competition on HIV AIDS with exciting prizes for all the attendees at the program. In addition, condoms and other relevant items were distributed from various booths at the exhibition.