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Kashmir Grapples with Growing AIDS

ted Intervention (TI) programme for migrant labourers in a systematic manner, which for example is the second highest risk group in Jammu and Kashmir," said Wani.

However, in a novel attempt to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, the JKSAPCS has roped in religious leaders like Muslim imams and Sikh granthis in the state to educate people against the spread of the deadly virus.

Religious leaders are no longer hesitant to talk about safe sex now despite being part of a conservative society. Initially, the programme was implemented in six districts of Kashmir, and nearly 400 imams have been trained so far.

The JKSAPCS is also holding talks with Sikh and Christian priests to involve them in the programme. The initiative draws inspiration from Uganda and Indonesia, where such messages are being propagated through imams.

So far, seminars and awareness programmes imparting complete information about HIV/AIDS have been held for over 600 imams in the state. The JKSAPCS is hoping to train as many Sikh religious leaders and granthis.

The increased presence of police, military, and paramilitary forces in the state has added to the risk factor.

Concerned by the recent increase in HIV/AIDS cases among paramilitary forces deployed in the valley, the state government communicated its concern to the security agencies.

A majority of the cases detected in the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) and the SMHS Hospital in Srinagar belonged to the Border Security Forces (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). In fact, such cases were detected during routine tests of the security personnel.

"We have been conducting workshops on HIV/AIDS at the basic unit level and further up in the Northern Command Hospital for educating officers, jawans and their families," said an army spokesperson.

The BSF has introduced a bi-annual health check-up for its doctors. Th
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