Lhak-Sam, network of HIV positive people in Bhutan, will develop an advocacy toolkit for accurate and uniform HIV- and AIDS-related information and procedures for the public, media and policymakers.

A consultation meeting was held on February 12 among the stakeholders.

Wangda Dorji, Lhak-Sam’s executive director, said that information and procedures on discrimination, stigmatistion and promotion of treatment, among others, would be included in the toolkit.

For the media, right HIV and AIDS terminologies would also be included to avoid discriminations and stigmatistion.

The toolkit will also have pictorial information for those who cannot read and serve as a model for individuals and stakeholders interested to advocate people on HIV.

Wangda Dorji said that misconceptions and misinformation about HIV and AIDS exist in the communities. “Toolkit would help us spread uniform information and message to the stakeholders.”

Concerns about differing mandates of the stakeholders, lack of coordination and incompetency were raised at the meeting. Health officials highlighted differing approach by police and health workers towards HIV advocacy.

Dr Tandi Dorji said that there is a need for advocacy at the legislative level to address the conflicting mandates. “As recommended by the participants, we should either have a policy directive or a guideline.”

Health official raised concerns regarding lack of skilled counsellors to deal with children with HIV.

Among the main concerns, participants said that few people come forward for HIV tests.

Lhak-Sam has 171 registered members of which 19 are children living with HIV.

There are about 570 people living with HIV in the country today.

Phurpa Lhamo