A former drug addict from Manipur has set up a support system for victims of substance abuse to "care and support the dying and to rescue the perishing".
K. Gouchinkhup, 31, an injection drug user (IDU) since his high-school days, said: "A sense of curiosity and peer pressure led me to take drugs when I was a Class 8 student.
Advertisement"Since then I have taken heroin, pharmaceutical drug spasmo proxyvon, opium and a number of other illegal substances. But I don't want youngsters in our state to inherit the bad habit."
The Churachandpur Users Forum (CUF), set up by him, has 14 founder members and over 50 members.
"People in the 18-30 age group are taking to drugs in Manipur, leading to a high rate of AIDS. At least 24 percent of all IDUs are HIV positive," Gouchinkhup told a visiting IANS correspondent.
The network provides orientation programme on HIV transmission, prevention, condom promotion, needles and syringe promotion, personal hygiene and other "opportunistic infections".
Members of NGOs working with addicts in the northeast state of Manipur were in Rajahmundry for a meet on community-led intervention to prevent AIDS organised by Care India, an international NGO supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Though I am still taking alternative drugs to get rid of substance effect, our goal is to help the younger generation face the problems that we once faced," said Gouchinkhup.
"From my experience, I know that IDUs do not give up the habits very fast. So, besides regular interaction with the active IDUs, we give safe and clean syringes to reduce the chance of HIV transmission," he added.
Gouchinkhup, who spent three years in a rehabilitation centre, said he was subjected to inhuman treatment during the stay. "They put me in chains throughout," he said.
According to the Manipur AIDS Control Association, there are over 30,000 IDUs in the state, more than 3,750 of whom have tested HIV positive.
"CUF aims to increase confidence among group members so that they can successfully manage change within their own situation. Groups will be helped to plan for their future through organising activities and actions," said a memorandum of the network.
Former addict A. Jiten Singh, 32, said the easy availability of drugs and a decline in law and order have contributed heavily to the current scenario.
"Several illegal substances are entering India from Myanmar through Manipur. You can get one gram of heroin for nearly Rs.1,200, which is much less than its rate in the international market," added Singh, who is working in a project run by the Australian Interventional Health Institute and an NGO.