New Delhi: India has shown a significant increase in the number of people with comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS, according to the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019–21) report. One-fifth (22 per cent) of women and one-third of men (31 per cent) in the 15-49 age group in India are aware of the advantages of using condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Among youths, around 20 per cent of women and 29 per cent of men between the ages of 15-24 have a knowledge of HIV/AIDS.
Despite an increase, there still remains a population that shows resistance to using condoms. Dr. Tanaya Narendra, socially known as the millennial Dr. Cuterus, spoke to the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India team about the status of people not using the protection, the lack of access, and its gendered effects.
Women’s Sexual Well-Being
Speaking about women’s health, Dr. Tanaya Narendra said that a significant change has been noticed in the urban areas, where women are leading the way in all sectors and talking openly about their sexual well-being. However, a contradictory image is seen in the rural area. According to Dr. Narendra, women in remote areas continue to struggle with having any autonomy at all, whether it is over their bodies, profession, or anything else.
Realistically, there are certain strata of society where women are able to make their choices and push forward. Hopefully, that is seen in other societies as well. I feel education and communication about sexual health can bridge the gap.
Resistance To Using Condoms
Dr. Narendra said that the use of condoms was low despite the rise in awareness around it and it is still considered as a Taboo. She said that there were a lot of people in the country, who were diagnosed with HIV due to unprotected sex.
Dr. Narendra said that many male partners believe that using a condom would reduce sensation, which is absolutely incorrect. Accessibility to condoms and other contraceptives is another point of concern in India, she said.
This issue can be managed by installing condom vending machines in every public bathroom. Unfortunately, we do not have standard bathrooms in the country that can be used for this purpose.
Reducing Over 90 Per Cent Chance Of Contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections With Condoms
Dr. Narendra said that people were not educated enough about the condom and its usage. She said that using one can cut the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV, pregnancy, and other infections by nearly 98 per cent.
There are problems at so many levels when it comes to using a condom. So often, people would not put it on correctly, while some would put it on just before penetration, not knowing that the genital contact had already happened.
Myths About HIV/AIDS
“Protect, don’t neglect,” said Dr. Narendra while busting some myths around HIV/AIDS:
- HIV does not spread from touching, kissing, or being physically close to someone.
- HIV spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids.
- HIV and AIDS are not the same. HIV is the virus that, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS.
- Condoms should be used for every sexual act, to protect yourself from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
- HIV spreads irrespective of one’s sexual orientation.
- Use new condoms and double-check the expiration dates on the ones already bought.
- It is important to break away from the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and stop shaming people with STIs.
Dr. Narendra spoke about the treatments available presently for HIV/AIDS. If someone is infected with HIV, there is a medicine called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which is prescribed by the doctors. It is a short course of HIV medicines that can be taken after a possible exposure to prevent the virus. Dr Narendra suggested that people consult their doctors about it.
Effective Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) drugs are available that can prolong the life of an HIV-positive person, she added.
You can listen to the full Banega Swasth India podcast discussion by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.