The Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) launched the ‘free love condom’ campaign named Love Brigade with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in the State capital Aizawl to mark World AIDS Day.
Chief Guest Dr. R. Lalthangliana, Mizoram’s Minister for Health and Family Welfare admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the government shift to focus from HIV/AIDS, which he termed the older, other pandemic.
“The fight against HIV is not yet over, and we need to focus our energies back on HIV prevention, care, and support and treatment services. The government of Mizoram is committed to re-anchoring the services with renewed focus and vigour so that our citizens get the maximum benefit of HIV interventions,” he said.
Dr. Lalthlengliani, Project Director of MSACS said the Love Brigade campaign was a collaboration between the society and the bike and taxi associations for distributing free condoms to their clients in a “non-stigma approach” while riding with them. Mizoram was one of the first States in India to start two-wheeler taxi service.
“The Love Brigade will be trained in HIV/AIDS counselling, would give out the details of free HIV testing initiatives of MSACS and share pamphlets with prevention messages to create awareness among the masses,” Dr Lalthlengliani said. “To begin with, 500 bike taxi riders and car taxi drivers will be selected and branded as Love Brigade and they in turn wILL distribute the free love condoms to their clients.”
Data with the MSACS show Mizoram’s HIV prevalence among people aged 15 to 49 years by October 2019 was 2.04%, almost ten times the rational average of 0.22%. The States’ annual new HIV infection rate was 1.32%, about 20 times the national average of 0.07%.
Two other north-eastern States — Manipur and Nagaland — follow Mizoram in that order.
Mizoram has been promoting the use of condoms since 2018. Strategies include installation of free condom pull-out kiosks in busy market areas and displaying 30-foot inflated condom balloons.