APSACS sensitizes barbers in fight against HIV/AIDS

NAHARLAGUN, Mar 03: The Arunachal Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) has brought the barbers here onboard its ‘Cut and Talk on HIV/AIDS’ campaign for promoting the use of condoms.

Altogether 120 barbers from 60 salons across Naharlagun Township participated in the second session of a one-day sensitisation programme the APSACS had organised at a hotel here on Tuesday. The first session was on February 13, 2018.

Explaining the objective of the programme, APSACS Assistant Director (Youth Affairs) Koj Tara said that cut and talk campaign was designed for involving barbers in promoting the use of condoms for creating awareness on HIV/AIDS and checking sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Free condom pick-up boxes and IEC material on HIV/AIDS will be made available at strategic locations and serviced by the salon, he added.

Koj said a man who visits a salon spends at least 30-45 minutes in shaving and hair-dressing. A barber can talk about HIV/AIDS and STIs during this time and offer a packet of free condoms to the customer.

“The aim is to protect people engaging in sexual acts from the risk of HIV, STI and unwanted pregnancies. The target populations for this campaign are youths and men of reproductive age who visit salons. At the end of every month, the distribution of condoms will be monitored and the stock update by APSACS,” he said.

He further explained that condoms will be promoted for dual protection (against HIV-STIs and unwanted pregnancies) through strategic communication approaches towards the normalisation of condoms. The normalisation includes increasing the perceptions of positive social support, social norms, self-efficacy in taking, carrying and use of condoms without embarrassment.

A Borang, Deputy Director (BSD) of APSACS said in his inaugural address that the first case of HIV in India was diagnosed in Chennai in female sex workers in 1986. The first case in Arunachal Pradesh was detected in 1998.

He appealed to all the participants to share the responsibilities of the government in creating awareness on an issue like HIV/AIDS. He thanked Bazar Welfare Committee, Naharlagun for their involvement in mobilising the barbers for active participation in the programme.

APASACS Project Director Riken Rina urged the participants to be equipped with correct and complete knowledge about HIV/AIDS and pass it on to their customers because knowledge is the only prevention of HIV/AIDS.

He said that HIV/AIDS is no longer an issue of the Health department only and requested civil society to come forward and share the responsibility in the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the state. He also highlighted the menace of drug and substance abuse in the state and asked the barbers to talk on the ill-effects of substance abuse along with HIV/AIDS during their discussions with customers.

Providing inputs on Covid-19, he urged all the barbers to put on masks and use sanitiser regularly to prevent infection. He also told the participants about the second wave of Covid pandemic in the county.

Bazar Welfare Committee Chairman and special guest Kipa Nai appreciated APSACS for the innovative idea of involving barbers in creating awareness on HIV/AIDS. He said that all sections of the society visit salons and barbers get ample opportunities to talk and discuss HIV/AIDS while performing their job.

Emphasising the cleanliness of the market areas, he said that it is our moral responsibilities to maintain clean and hygienic environs. He outlined the activities taken up by the Naharlagun Bazar Welfare Committee in active collaboration with the government departments for the welfare of shopkeepers in the township. He urged shopkeepers to help and actively participate in such programmes in the future.

During the technical session, resource person and APSACS Deputy Director (IEC) Tashor Pali explained various modes of transmission of HIV/AIDS and the risks involved. He also clarifies the myths and misconceptions attached to HIV/AIDS and said that people aged 20-49 years are the most vulnerable to HIV infection.

Talking on service facilities provided by National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) in the state, he emphasised getting tested and knowing one’s HIV status at Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres. He also informed the participants about the national toll-free helpline number 1097 for any further queries on HIV/AIDS.

Deliberating on Interpersonal Communication, he explained how barbers can create awareness and explain about HIV/AIDS by using their communication skills to their customers.

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