Saturday, December 1, 2012

AIDS DAY - 1st Dec. 2012.

Theme for WORLD AIDS DAY, 2012 ... “Getting to Zero”.

*** Zero New HIV Infections, 
*** Zero Discrimination and 
*** Zero AIDS Related Deaths.

UN AIDS strategy goals 2012 - 2015 :
* Sexual transmission of HIV reduced by half, including among young people, men who have sex with men and transmission in the context of sex work.
* Vertical transmission of HIV eliminated, and AIDS-related maternal mortality reduced by half.
* All new HIV infections prevented among people who use drugs.
* Universal access to anti retroviral therapy for people living with HIV who are eligible for treatment.
* TB deaths among people living with HIV reduced by half.
* People living with HIV and households affected by HIV are addressed in all national social protection strategies and have access to essential care and support.
* Countries with punitive laws and practices around HIV transmission, sex work, drug use or homosexuality that block effective responses reduced by half.
* HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence eliminated in half of the countries that have such restrictions.
* HIV-specific needs of women and girls are addressed in at least half of all national HIV responses.
* Zero tolerance for gender-based violence.

“Zero AIDS related deaths” would probably be possible by making adequate treatment available free of cost to all AIDS patients. This means that they should receive the recommended regimens under the guidance of an experienced doctor.  AIDS medications, if taken as single tablets, lead to resistance and ineffectiveness of the drug; adequate health education should be imparted in this regard.  A recent report pointed out that there are very few specialists in India trained in treating AIDS patients.  Additional efforts to encourage more doctors to specialize in this line could make a difference to the millions of HIV-positive patients. 
In 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related causes worldwide.

“Zero discrimination” is another important aspect necessary especially in India.  For fear of contacting the disease, people tend to keep away from a person who is known to be HIV positive.  This could lead to people hiding their illness, which could further encourage the spread of the disease.  We have heard of people losing jobs because they are HIV positive; innocent children asked to leave school because they carry the virus; some HIV positive people are refused medical treatment. Public education is necessary to remove the stigma and ensure that HIV positive people are an integral part of the society. 

“Zero new HIV infections” is probably the most difficult goal to achieve.  This calls for increased awareness of the routes of spread of HIV, and ways and means to prevent the spread.  Safe sex practices should be advised and condoms should be made easily available. Hospitals and blood banks should maintain strict precautions against the spread of HIV.  Injection drug users should also be advised not to use the same syringe. 
In 2011 the total world AIDS cases were around 34 million & half of them don't know about their HIV status. 

“Getting to zero” does appear a difficult task for a country like India, but it is not an impossible one. It needs good co-operation between the public, the government and the health care system to achieve this goal.

Ironically, when AIDS was detected in early 1980s, there was not a single case recognized in India.  But the failure of the health care system to control the infection saw a whooping increase in the number of cases following the detection of the first case in 1986; estimates from 2009 reveal that there are nearly 2.4 million HIV-positive people living in India !  Initially, the infection was seen only in sex workers and truck drivers; today it affects all sections of the Indian society. 

India, as a nation usually performs worse than its South Asian neighbors when it comes to basic healthcare parameters – the infant mortality rate of Bangladesh (37) and Sri Lanka (11) are lower than India’s – but there’s one disease that the country has been battling successfully – HIV/AIDS.

According to the latest UNAIDS report, India managed to reduce its HIV count by a staggering 56% while both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka saw an increase in HIV cases by 25%. This has led to various international figures like praising India’s HIV/AIDS prevention model.

India is not alone though in reining the overall spread of the disease. Worldwide, the number of people newly infected continues to fall : the number of people (adults and children) acquiring HIV infection in 2011 (2.5 million) is 20 percent lower than in 2001. 
In 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related causes worldwide. This represents a 24 percent decline in AIDS-related mortality compared with 2005 when 2.3 million deaths occurred.

The efforts to tame the overall spread of the disease have, however, yet to make a significant dent in the worst affected high risk category. According to the latest Technical Report of India’s HIV estimates, at the national level, HIV prevalence is highest amongst the injecting drug users (IDU) at 12.22 percent followed by men who have sex with men (MSM) at 6.82 percent and female sex workers (FSW) at 5.92 percent respectively.

Nationally, in India the prevalence rate for adult female is 0.29 percent, while for male it is 0.43 percent.  This means that for every 100 people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHAs), 61 are men and 39 women.  Prevalence is also high in the 15-49 age group ( 88.7 percent of all infections ), indicating that AIDS still threatens the cream of society, those in the prime of their working life.’  

Globally, the biggest gain has been made in reducing new HIV infections among children. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children. The new HIV infections in children have dropped by 24 percent in the last two years. The break-up of the category in India is not readily available.  

Rapid increases in Anti-retro-viral therapy for AIDS (ART) coverage are helping more countries achieve universal access to treatment, care and support. Anti retro viral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. In the last 24 months the numbers of people accessing treatment has increased by 63 percent globally. In India approximately 40 -59 percent of eligible people were receiving ART at the end of 2011.

If we look around we would see that the prevention activities are not happening very actively. It is high time that one should be aware of the fact that care and prevention are part of the same continuum to control the spread of the infection.’

World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for all of us - individuals, communities and leaders - to take action and ensure that human rights are protected and global targets for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment are met.


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