HIV screening campaign at major railway stations

Mumbai: To eradicate the stigma associated with HIV tests, the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) will set up free screening camps at 12 busy railway stations in the city, from December 9-14. These spots witness maximum footfall, the society claims. The tests will help people ascertain whether they are HIV-positive, so that they can begin treatment on time.

The stations where these testing facilities will be available are: the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Dadar, Kurla, Bandra, Borivli, Chembur, Mankhurd, Govandi, Byculla and Andheri and two other stations yet to be decided.

Dr Shrikala Acharya, additional project director, said the HIV screening campaign would be held from December 9 to December 14 and testing will be free. Those testing HIV-positive will be referred to the nearest anti-retroviral (ART) centres for further treatment.

“People undergo various diagnostic tests when they are facing a health problem, but they usually do not get tested for HIV. In order to encourage HIV testing, we have initiated this public campaign and will help people become aware of their status,” she said.

Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health official, BMC, said they will provide kiosks at 12 locations, where a team of two health officials from non-governmental organisations will be seated, who will talk to commuters and ask them to get tested for HIV. “The reason for selecting railway stations as locations for HIV screening campaigns is so that we can approach many people and create awareness,” said Dr Keskar.

Last year, MDACS had conducted a similar programme from December 3-5. Around 12,000 people were tested for HIV, of whom 88 were found HIV positive and they were referred to government-run ART centres for further treatment.

However, experts have admitted that the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS is still high, preventing people from testing themselves, leading to a delay in the start of treatment.

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