The North East of India: Mizoram says yes to music..., and no to drugs, HIV and AIDS

Mizoram is one of the seven sister states in the North East of India. It shares land borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar. Mizoram's proximity to the border of Myanmar, from where heroin is sourced, is one of the main contributors to the prevalence of drug use and related drug driven HIV in the state. Over the past decade Mizoram has been witnessing a significant increase in the number of drug users and more importantly the number of HIV infections because of drug use in its communities. Drug use in Mizoram is also one of the main drivers of heterosexual transmission of HIV as drug users tend to exchange sex for drugs. Those who don't inject drugs indulge in unprotected (without condoms) sex and with multiple partners. Recent evidences suggest that almost one third (31.8%) of HIV infections in Mizoram are among injecting drug users (IDU); hence, drug related harm, care and support to HIV-infected drug users and their immediate families have been the focus areas of intervention for policy makers and programme implementers in Mizoram.

To respond to the problem of drug driven HIV in Mizoram, the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) of the Government of India gives highest priority to HIV prevention through a number of programmes including strategic communication for behaviour change, condom promotion, blood safety, HIV counselling and testing. To further its impact NACO in partnership with UNODC and the Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) have launched a multimedia campaign and the medium of music and games like soccer to mobilise communities specially those that are most affected by drug use, HIV and AIDS.

As part of this multimedia campaign, on 15 December 2009, the grand finale of a state wide musical talent hunt competition was organised in Aizawl, the capital city of Mizoram. The musical competition is popularly known as the red ribbon "Youth Icon" 2009 and builds on a concept introduced by UNODC in 2006 when it first organised a musical talent hunt competition titled "Youth Icon" 2006.

The grand finale of "Youth Icon" 2009 was telecast live on the state television and reached out to over 300,000 viewers, while there were thousands of others who were present for the live event that took place at the Young Mizo Association (YMA) hall. The finalists of the events came from some of the most remote districts and villages of Mizoram after having braved a series of selection processes including live auditions based on the quality of the script and their performance.

The multi media campaign through the "Youth Icon" music event saw immense support and participation from the parliamentarians, ministers, senior decision makers, faith based organizations and the Mizo youth at large, all of whom have been contributing to the success of the multi media campaign. Some of the initial achievements of the multi media campaign include the recognition of drug users and their unique health and social needs.

Significant to the success of this campaign is the political commitment, social concern and the enthusiasm that is evident through out the state as it gears up for its second leg of the talent hunt, but this time through the red ribbon "Youth Icon" 2009 soccer competitions.

While the road to success ahead looks difficult it is certainly not impossible in Mizoram. There are opportunities, strengths and good precedence's to look up to. UNODC is committed to support NACO and the people of Mizoram in its fight against drug use and HIV.