The social stigma around HIV AIDS – one of the deadliest diseases – is still strong in India. Do you know that women constitute a whopping 40% of the total people with AIDS in India? This is largely because women don’t go through the required medical tests to check if they have contracted the terminal illness.
This essentially threatens the aspiring target of ending HIV AIDS by 2030. As a country, we are the third largest HIV epidemic in the world, only after South Africa and Nigeria. While the estimated number of cases in India comes to about 0.3%, according to a 2016 report, it is a significantly large number because of our large population.
It comes to about 2.1 million cases of adult AIDS. Last year about 62,000 people died because of the illness.
However, the silver lining is the number of HIV positive people is on a decline since 2007. We saw a 32% decline in new AIDS infection with 80,000 in 2016 and a 58% decline in deaths due to HIV AIDS between 2007-2016, as per UNAIDS report.
But the problem with India is the access to the antiretroviral therapy to people and especially women. Now when the government and many NGOs encourage people to testify and start the treatment still the number of affected people actually starting treatment is less than half the percentage.
Only 41% of Pregnant women with HIV get treatment and they are at highest risk of transmitting the disease to their unborn child. Even sex workers who are illiterate and unaware are at risk of transmitting the disease to more people around them.
“Women do not really go out and take an HIV test because of the social stigma and taboo attached to it. They fear associating with it socially.”
“There is a huge need to ramp up education and awareness about HIV infection among women besides upgrading the social status of women in order to empower her to make choices related to her sexual partner,” Nochiketa Mohanty, country programme manager, AIDS Healthcare Foundation told TOI.
He added, “Women do not really go out and take an HIV test because of the social stigma and taboo attached to it. They fear associating with it socially.”
In the recent past, many initiatives have been rolled out to curb HIV AIDS. National Aids Control Organization (NACO) recently launched ‘Test and Treat Policy for HIV’ policy. “As soon as a person found HIV positive, we provide them with ART. We have intensified our efforts to find all those who have HIV AIDS,” said Dr Arun K. Panda, additional secretary, Naco, LiveMint reported.
Picture credit- India Live Today
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