Thirty-three year-old Lalbiaki is a counsellor with Mizoram’s AIDS Prevention and Control Society. Until last year, she would spend several days on the road every month, travelling the hills and valleys of Champhai in a white-coloured pickup with two colleagues – a lab technician and a driver – scouring the countryside for cases of AIDS.
Located along the Myanmar border, the district of Champhai is one of the principal routes through which drugs enter India. The district has high rates of drug addiction. Several of these addicts have HIV infections as well, the condition that almost inevitably leads to AIDS unless treated. The North East has among the highest prevalence rates of HIV in India, and within the region, Mizoram’s figures are next only to neighbouring Manipur.
This places Lalbiaki’s mobile unit at the vanguard of India’s fight against AIDS. Tasked with spreading awareness about HIV in a high-risk region, and conducting blood tests that could help detect HIV positive cases early, it plays a crucial role in ensuring that the virus does not spill over into the rest of the population.
But for the last couple of months, the unit has been struggling to do its job. In addition to the salaries of the three staffers, its expenses come to Rs 11,000 a month. But between April 2014 and March this year, it received funds only three times.
Out today, my story on why Mizoram’s AIDS crisis is all set to worsen.