New Delhi: December 1 of every year is marked as AIDS Day worldwide, with an aim to unite communities globally to fight against the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), show support for people living with the infection, and commemorate those who have died from the illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, and the day remains relevant today, reminding people and governments that HIV is still prevalent. In the first two years of the campaign, World AIDS Day highlighted the impact of AIDS on families, specifically children and youth. In 1996, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) took over the campaign operations and expanded the scope of the initiative to a year-round prevention and education campaign.
Difference Between HIV And AIDS
According to the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), a person infected with HIV has a weak immune system. The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the result of HIV infection at a later stage. It is a condition in which a group of symptoms appear as the immune system becomes very weak. It can take around 8–10 years from the time of HIV infection to develop into AIDS.
Do All People With HIV Have AIDS?
Being diagnosed with HIV does not mean a person will also be diagnosed with AIDS. NACO states that healthcare professionals diagnose AIDS when people with HIV infection begin to get severe opportunistic infections (OIs), or their CD4 cell count falls below a certain level. Immune function is measured by CD4 cell count, and the CD4 cells, or white blood cells, fight infection.
India’s Status On HIV
According to NACO’s estimates in 2021, HIV infection affected 0.21 percent of the total population. Among states, Mizoram has the highest number of adult HIV prevalence and People Living with HIV (PLHIV) with nearly 2.7 per cent among people between the age group 15-49 years. Nagaland has the second-highest number of people estimated to have contracted HIV, with nearly 1.4 per cent of the total population, followed by Manipur (1.05 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (0.67 per cent), Telangana (0.47 per cent), among others.
Each year, UNAIDS has a theme to work on to ensure that communities are empowered to engage in HIV programmes and promote the full inclusion of civil society. For years, disparities in access to the most basic HIV services, such as testing and treatment, have persisted.
This year, UNAIDS focuses on a specific theme, “Equalize,” with the aim to address these inequalities and the ones among citizens which are holding back progress in ending AIDS.
The theme is a call to action, for increasing the availability, quality, and suitability of services for HIV treatment, its testing, and prevention. The theme also highlights the importance of reforming laws, policies, and practices to tackle the stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV and equalise access to essential HIV services, particularly for children and key populations and their partners.
Here are some of the facts about HIV/AIDS, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO):
- So far, nearly 40.1 million people have lost their lives to HIV.
- Around 650,000 people died from HIV-related causes in 2021, and 1.5 million became infected.
- At the end of 2021, there were an estimated 38.4 million people living with HIV, of whom two-thirds (25.6 million) were in the WHO African Region.
- In order to achieve the proposed global ’95/95/95′ targets set by UNAIDS, the countries need to redouble their efforts to avoid the worst-case scenario of 7.7 million HIV-related deaths over the next ten years. The ’95/95/95′ target talks about requiring 95 per cent of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95 per cent of all people with a diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), and 95 per cent of all people receiving ART to have viral suppression by 2025.
How Are People Infected With HIV?
According to NACO, HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sex with an HIV infected person, transfusion of HIV infected blood or blood products, or sharing of needles contaminated with HIV infected blood. Besides, HIV-infected mothers can transmit it to her baby during pregnancy, during birth, or after delivery. It is to be noted that HIV does not transmit through social contacts such as shaking hands, travelling together, hugging, or kissing.
Treatment for HIV
Currently, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, however, there are many medications that can control HIV and prevent complications. Effective Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) drugs are available that can prolong the life of an HIV-positive person.
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.