A person wanting to know about his or her HIV status, can simply walk into anyone of Chandigarh's four Integrated Control and Testing Centres (ICTC) and gather information, or to remove misconceptions about the disease.
The administration in the Union Territory has set up four new ICTC's to provide counselling and testing to HIV/AIDS patients.
Advertisement"Chandigarh has nine ICTC in different areas, besides, a mobile ICTC. The patients gather in the area where van goes and get themselves tested," said Doctor Suvir Saxena, the Project Director of the State AIDS Control Society (SACS).
A mobile testing centre, also run by the SACS, visits to places to spread awareness about ways to combat the disease. The mobile van also has diagnostic facilities, besides counsellors from support groups to help the patients and the general public.
The network was first set up in Chennai in 1987, with the aim of minimising the ill treatment of AIDS patients, and to make them a part of mainstream society.
"The network was formed in Chandigarh on September 2, 2005. The attitude of people towards HIV positive people changes, they are thrown out of the house. I have gone through same thing," said Puja Thakur, an activist affected by HIV.
Puja's support group also conducts novel awareness drives in high-risk areas.
"We go to a barber shop and tell them about HIV/ AIDS. We put IC materials and condom packets there so that they can spread awareness about AIDS among their customers," said Raja Ram, an AIDS activist.
According to AIDS activists, the lack of awareness and the widespread stigma has contributed to paranoia about the virus.
The Central Government is finalising a legislation to protect HIV/AIDS victims against discrimination in schools, offices and hospitals.
The new law is expected to provide for punitive action against those guilty of discriminating against AIDS victims.
India has the world's highest HIV caseload, after South Africa and Nigeria, with around 2.5 million people suffering from the virus.
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