Lhak-Sam had made a marvelous achievement in advocacy and awareness when 5 HIV-positive people (4 male, 1 female) came out openly in the mass media during World AIDS Day (WAD) December 01st 2011 which gave HIV a human face in the history of 19 years of HIV epidemic in the country. Majority of the Bhutanese people expressed the decision as ‘bold and kind’. While some felt that the decision was not really good for those who came out in the media and might face negative impact.
Lhak-Sam first face to face advocacy to the people of Bhutan was on January 2012 to students of Royal Body Guard (RBG) and Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) after having received the direct command to be involved from the Office of the Gyelpoy Zimpon (His Majesty’s secretariat ).With strong support and respect from the community Lhak-Sam got the additional strength on its commitment for advocacy, awareness and education on HIV and AIDS in the schools, armed forces, communities, work places and to the marginalized groups of people including the school drop-outs covering 13 districts with a reach of 13600 audience in total.
Lhak-Sam members on the campaign were well received by the District administration and cooperated in the coordination of the programs involving all the district sectors including the local community leaders. Apart from advocacy and awareness to PLHIV, affected family members, targeted and general population Lhak-Sam also advocated the government on optimal treatment and diagnostic facilities to increase the quality of life of PLHIV. Lhak-Sam will in the future advocate and sensitize the government on the punitive laws that drives the marginalized groups of people underground and block their access to treatment and information and put them into a situation vulnerable to HIV infection. Lhak-sam believe until and unless the punitive laws and legislation against the most at risk population are addressed within the frame work of human rights, the country cannot guarantee it will achieve the ‘3 Zeros’ – zero new HIV infections, zero stigma and discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths. Many other countries in our region have addressed HIV related issues on rights based approach and have had good success in the reduction in HIV transmission, morbidity and mortality.