By Dr. Ashwani K. Malhotra
As he stood at the ART center in the Government Hospital , waiting for his turn to get the free antiretroviral medicines, he couldn’t help but regret the days in his youth when he was a carefree teenager and had accompanied his friends on many occasions to wild outings where they would drink, party , dance to drug induced highs and indulge in casual sexual encounters with nameless faces. Years later when he met with an accident and needed blood , he was not only shocked but embarrassed to know that he was HIV positive. He had already lost weight and had grown weak and now became a recluse, lost all interest in life and was contemplating suicide when the kind and sympathetic doctor at the hospital told him not to lose hope and referred him to the ART center . And now he was leading a near normal life.For the estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV infection in the world , out of which there were about 1.8 million children and of whom only about two thirds knew about their HIV and/ or AIDS status , and the estimated 2.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India ( 2016 figures ) the newer drugs available to contain one of the most deadly viruses that has become a major global public issue has provided new hopes to the devastated patients and their families.
The social stigma, discrimination and myths surrounding HIV and AIDS prevents many people from getting themselves tested and treated at an early date. However , with the conceited efforts by WHO, the Central and State Governments, NACO ( National AIDS Control Organization ) and NGO’s who hold awareness camps and distribute condoms among the high risk groups such as casual sex workers, , men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users ( IDU ) , truck drivers, migrants and teens who frequent the night spots , there has been a reduction of 59 % in new infections and 29 % related deaths and the prevalence rate has fallen from .4 % to .26 % of the total population.On World’s Aids Day on 1st December, this year the theme for which is, ” Right to health ” let us all spread the message of following safe sex and safe blood and making the world free from HIV and AIDS.
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