World AIDS Day celebrated in Panaji

Goa ace fashion designer Wendell Rodricks , opened the 2nd edition of Goa Red ribbon Fest 2019 to mark the World aids day . The festival, organized by a youth-led organization, Human Touch Foundation was held at Jardim García de Orta, Panaji, and featured several creatives and contests such as face painting, human red ribbon formation, quizzes, red ribbon tree, contests of selfies, t-shirt painting. and games to raise awareness about HIV prevention, stigma and discrimination.

In line with the theme for this year 'Communities make the difference' Human Touch Foundation also highlighted the difference several communities are making to end the HIV epidemic while drawing global attention to the need for their broader engagement in strengthening primary health care.

"There is a need for the society to stop stigmatising and discriminating people living with HIV and those belonging to the LGBTQ community", said Wendell Rodricks who further spoke on the need to see youth engage in safer sex and do routine HIV test, to prevent transmission of the virus.

Celina D’Costa spoke on her struggle from the time her husband and she were tested positive and the lack of awareness about the illness leading to discrimination. She further spoke on the need to address issues surrounding HIV and ageing, given that treatment has made HIV a manageable chronic illness.

On the occasion, Elizabeth Figer, an adolescent living with HIV , spoke passionately on behalf of the adolescent community, on the need to curb stigma and discrimination, especially in the school setting.

"I have come here with courage and determination to seek your help in ending HIV related stigma and discrimination. We are nearing four decades of HIV , and we are still lagging behind understanding HIV and choose to discriminate. That needs to end. Goa needs to set an example and lead the way,” said Elizabeth.

Communities of people living with HIV and community health workers have played a key role in the HIV response. "There is a need to engage them and listen to their stories on making the difference and changing lives," says Peter F. Borges, Founder and CEO of Human Touch Foundation.

The festival was attended by students from the various educational institutes. Rapid HIV testing was offered to young people with pre-test and post-test counselling.