Two Indias on the Aids map
The news that the spread of Aids in India?s southern states has recorded a 35 per cent dip should act as a catalyst to rev up awareness and intervention strategies in the rest of India.india Updated: Apr 01, 2006 02:30 IST
The news that the spread of Aids in India’s southern states has recorded a 35 per cent dip should act as a catalyst to rev up awareness and intervention strategies in the rest of India. Reported in the Lancet, the study cites that if the current trend continues in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra — states that have seen the longest-running campaigns among high-risk groups — then in a few years, there will be little or no increase in the number of HIV-infected people. That’s heartening news indeed. The global figure for those infected with Aids/HIV stands at 40.3 million people, with India having 5.14 million cases. The disease has been particularly difficult to battle because of the widespread taboo in even discussing sexual behaviour.
The report presses for action on a much larger scale in North India, where there is little reliable data of even the high-risk groups. Considering that giant funds have been invested by the State and private organisations, this points to a serious failure. While South Indian states may be the most affected — with 75 per cent of India’s HIV positive population living there — the report triggers a shudder of trepidation as to the not-too-distant future in North India if the disease is not checked. The government should take serious note of this and ensure that an Aids-mapping exercise is conducted in the north on a priority basis. It can’t be difficult to replicate South India’s model of awareness, surveillance, monitoring and intervention. The study recommends enhancing routine surveillance systems, including more questions on risk factors, pregnancy history, spouse history and STI testing — cost-effective measures that can be indicators to the growth of HIV in India.
Despite the good news in the south, there’s little room for complacency. Aids awareness has to be pushed through with greater vigour. Caveats apart, the reduction by a third in Aids prevalence is a good demonstration of what successful health strategies can achieve with a committed team at work.