India, the amazing India. With an estimated population of 1.2 billion, more than a fifth of the world’s total population, India is world’s largest democracy. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, it is home to one of world’s most diverse cultures and heritages. But unlike most of the other developed nations, India lags behind in terms of optimal growth in many sectors, including the most vulnerable, “health”.
It is estimated that over 2.4 million people in India are living with HIV/AIDS. The soaring numbers are largely governed by the country’s poverty, poor health infrastructures, illiteracy, extensive labour migration and lack of awareness.
To commemorate the silver jubilee of the World AIDS DAY, we at onlymyhealth.com will take you through the modern India’s swashbuckling struggle against this global pandemic, HIV/AIDS.
The first registered case of HIV and AIDS emerged in India in 1986, diagnosed by Dr. Suniti Solmon amongst sex workers in Chennai. Since then, it showed a tremendous increase throughout the 1990’s; the major reason behind this was cited as the rise in foreign tourism. This raised an alarming concern and forced the Indian government to launch several HIV screening centres across Tamil Nadu. The government further strengthened the measures by setting up the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in 1992 to oversee the strategic planning, formulating and implementing the policies. But it was soon realised that the problem is more wide spread and is coming out of the closet, breaking the social barrier.
[Read: How HIV Causes AIDS]
India is home to world’s third largest HIV population, only after South Africa and Nigeria. In 2009, it was estimated by the NACO and UNAIDS that around 2.4 million people across India are affected by HIV and AIDS, with a prevalence of 0.3 percent. The numbers are colossal as India being the second most populous nation in the world, a paltry 0.1 percent increase in the prevalence will increase the HIV population by more than half a million. Despite all this, India’s prevalence rate is much lower than many other smaller countries.
HIV/AIDS in India is not limited to the rural and labour class population, as it was earlier seen. Today, it has spread its web to a wide range of population like the business class, housewives, urban working class, gay men, and heterosexuals. The group which are at high risk are identified as female sexual workers, truck drivers, migrant labours, injected drug users and gay men.
[Read: Breakthrough in AIDS Cure]
Since the emergence of the first case, way back in 1986, the government of India has taken several steps to restrict the spread of this epidemic. The Indian government, through the National AIDS Committee, and the NACO has successfully setup surveillance and monitoring practises across the nation. The government also launched 3 National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) from 1992 to 2008. The first programme focused on the various aspects of HIV/AIDS like monitoring HIV infection rates among risk populations. The second one focused on targeted interventions for high-risk groups and preventive interventions among the general population, and the third NACP worked on the aim of halting and reversing the epidemic by integrating programmes for prevention, care, support and treatment.
Education was seen as the best possible measure to prevent HIV/AIDS in India, starting from the ground level covering major languages. The government also installed over 11,000 condom vending machines throughout the country and launched ad campaigns like “Condom Bindas Bol” to break the taboo. For its active role in preventing the HIV and AIDS, India received several accolades from the major world leaders and forums. The Sonagachi project in West Bengal has gained international acknowledgement for its achievements, and the United Nations has labelled the project as a ‘best practice’ model for other sex worker projects around the world.
[Read: Role of School in HIV Education]
The cultural and social blockades in India have often branded HIV/AIDS as a taboo in all segments of the society. In many areas, the people suffering from the disease are outcasted from various spheres of life, be it receiving education, worshiping in common religious places, receiving medical treatments and sometimes, have even been denied of their last rites.
Forms of these various levels of social atrocities are proving out to be a major hindrance in the entire global fight against HIV and AIDS.
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