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India's AIDS EpidemicIndia is the most populous country on the planet and one of the most densely populated countries. With over 1.38 billion densely packed people, diseases spread quickly and HIV/AIDS is no exception. Although only 0.2% of adults have HIV/AIDS, this equates to roughly 2.4 million people, a total far higher than any other country in Asia. For this reason, many new programs have started. Although their tactics differ, each program works to fight India’s AIDS epidemic.

Causes of the Epidemic

The causes of India’s HIV Epidemic stem from multiple, diverse issues. Two primary causes include the practice of unprotected sex between sex workers and the injection of drugs using infected needles. These two practices are most common among vulnerable populations such as low-income communities. Thus, India’s AIDS epidemic is centered in select regions; although only a small percentage of the total population has HIV, this number is high in certain regions, and extra precautions are necessary for prevention in these areas.

Despite these overwhelming statistical figures, recent research has provided optimistic results. The number of HIV infections per year decreased by 57% between 2000 and 2011, and the annual deaths from AIDS decreased by 29% from 2007 to 2011. Bold government programs inspired by independent research instilled this change within the Indian population. The programs’ success stems from a variety of HIV treatments and from education, challenging the stigma and misconceptions about the disease.

Methods of Success

One of India’s renowned HIV treatment methods is the Antiretroviral Therapy program, known as ART. ART is the provision of supplements and antiviral drugs for citizens infected with HIV. In 2004, the Indian government sponsored the program, striving to place 100,000 infected Indians on the program by 2007. This program likely played a major role in the steep decline in HIV-related deaths from 2007-2011.

Noticing the success of the ART initiative, the Indian government took a further step in 2017 by initiating the World Health Organization’s Treat All policy; this policy focuses on making the ART program accessible to all disadvantaged Indians. The Treat All policy increased the number of new monthly joiners by several hundred.

Along with these programs, the Indian government has sponsored adolescent education programs centered on preventing the spread of HIV; they aim to end the negative stigma towards the disease and those infected. These programs also provide basic sex education. Studies on these programs have shown extraordinary results; samples of students understand essential facts about the disease such as how it spreads and the current lack of a cure. Although direct government intervention is vital, ending India’s AIDS epidemic starts with educating the youth.

Plans for the Future

With such a large number of people carrying the disease, managing HIV in India is no small task. Although the aforementioned methods have shown optimistic results, the involvement of local communities, governments, and NGOs is essential to maintaining the trend. When discussing diseases such as HIV, the intervention of international bodies cannot maintain the health of individual citizens; ending India’s AIDS epidemic is ultimately the responsibility of Indians, and these new programs enable them to do so.

Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr