New Delhi: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that targets the immune system and weakens people’s defense against many infections. It is also one of the world’s most serious public health challenges, as since it was first identified in 1984, the world has not been able to come up with a possible effective vaccine for it.
In a bid to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died from AIDS-related illness, December 1 is marked as World AIDS Day. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day.
Here’s a look at why the day holds so much importance:
- HIV has claimed almost 33 million lives so far across the globe, according to World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Even today, more than 12 million people are still waiting to get HIV treatment, 1.7 million people became newly infected in 2019 with HIV and 690 000 people died from HIV-related causes in 2019 because they could not access essential services, says UNAIDS, the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
- The most recent report by the United Child Fund (UNICEF) states that in 2019, approximately in every one minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 is infected with HIV.
- UNICEF in its report released recently also stated that prevention efforts and treatment for children remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations, and in 2019, a little less than half of the children worldwide have no access to life-saving treatment.
- According to UNICEF, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere across the world. There are serious concerns that one-third of high HIV burden countries could face coronavirus-related disruptions.
- In India, as per UNAIDS, there were 2.1 million people living with HIV in 2017.
- UNAIDS states that there has been a decrease in the number of AIDS-related deaths since 2010 in India, with a 56 per cent decrease, from 1,60,000 deaths to 69,000 deaths in 2017 and the number of new HIV infections has decreased, from 1,20,000 to 88,000 in the same period.
- However, with the COVID-19 pandemic having halted the progress of several public health programmes, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has warned that India may miss the national target to end AIDS by 2030. That target would be difficult to achieve as the decline in annual new HIV infections was only 27 per cent from 2010 to 2017 against a national target of a 75 per cent decline by 2020. The warning comes in a study by the ICMR-National Institute of Medical Statistics, Division of Strategic information – Surveillance and Epidemiology, and the National AIDS Control Organization under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- As per the study published in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research, the national adult prevalence of HIV was estimated to be 0.22 per cent in 2017. Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland had the highest prevalence of over 1 per cent.
- According to WHO, there is no cure for HIV infection, however, effective antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) can control the virus and help prevent onward transmission to other people.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. 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 highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. 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 become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.