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Special Content

Issue No 35, 27 November -3 December 2021

Combating The Aids Challenge

World AIDS Day is observed on 1st of December every year. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially lifethreatening condition caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). World AIDS Day is dedicated to raising awareness, educating and improving the understanding of AIDS as a global public health problem. It provides an opportunity to understand the interdependence between progress in ending AIDS and progress towards Universal Health Coverage and the Right to Health.

People around the world unite to show support for people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS. It has become one of the most recognized international health days and a key opportunity to make people more aware and celebrate victories, such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

 When was it started and why?

 Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day. Awareness-raising activities take place around the globe. Many people wear a red ribbon, the universal symbol of awareness of, support for and solidarity with people living with HIV. People living with HIV make their voices heard on issues important in their lives. Groups of people living with HIV and other civil society organizations involved in the AIDS response mobilize in support of the communities they serve and to raise funds.

Every year, since 2004, United Nations agencies, governments and civil society join together to campaign around specific themes related to HIV. This year's theme will be “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.” This year's theme joins a growing list of challenges that World AIDS Day has alerted people to globally.

HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed over 36 million lives so far and the World AIDS Day aims to demand global solidarity and shared responsibility. In 2020, 6,80,000 people died from HIVrelated causes globally. There were approximately 37.7 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) at the end of 2020 with 1.5 million people becoming newly infected with HIV in 2020 globally.

World AIDS Day remains as relevant today as it's always been, reminding people and governments that HIV has not gone away. There is still a critical need for increased funding for the AIDS response, to increase awareness of the impact of HIV on people's lives, to end stigma and discrimination and to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV. UNAIDS is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

 Prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in India

National Aids Control Programme (NACP) is a 100% centrally sponsored scheme by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. The programme is being implemented through the State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) and District AIDS Prevention and Control Units (DAPCUs) in the country to reduce new infections by 50% (2007 Baseline of NACP III) and to provide comprehensive care, support and treatment to all persons living with HIV/ AIDS.

 Even though the prevalence of HIV is decreasing over the last decade, following activities under the NACP would provide essential support in arresting new infections and thereby achieving the target of "Ending the epidemic by 2030" for Sustainable Development Goals:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Disease (AIDS) Prevention and Control Bill to ensure equal rights to the people infected with HIV and AIDS in getting treatment and prevent discrimination of any kind.

Test and Treat Policy' for HIV with the objective of "as soon as a person is tested and found to be positive, he will be provided with ART irrespective of his CD count or clinical stage."

The life-saving third line ART treatment for HIV patients is free of cost

NACP has adopted attainment of 90-90-90 by 2020 as key targets towards achieving 'End of AIDS' by 2030. This means that by 2020, 90% of the estimated PLHIV know their HIV status (First 90); 90% of all people who know their HIV status are on antiretroviral therapy (Second 90), and 90% of people accessing treatment have suppressed viral load (Third 90).

A full realization of 90-90-90 targets will result in 90% of the total estimated number of PLHIV being aware of their HIV status, 81% of them being on ART and 73% being virally suppressed; often referred to as the HIV testing and treatment cascade.

 Red Ribbon Express- It travels across the country through a specified route chart to spread awareness on HIV/AIDS, promote safe behavioural practices, strengthen people's knowledge about the measures to be taken to prevent this epidemic and develop an understanding about the disease to reduce stigma and discrimination against People Living with HIV/AIDS.

 Keyways to prevent HIV transmission:

Practice safe sexual behaviours such as condoms

Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases.

Never share needles or other injecting equipment, including syringes, spoons and swabs (injecting drug users).

All pregnant women should be tested for HIV as a part of routine antenatal screening, and start HIV treatment immediately if found positive for HIV.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP):

It is the short-term antiretroviral treatment to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure, either occupationally or through sexual intercourse.

 Pre-exposure prophylaxis is advised to those people who do not have HIV but are at very high risk of getting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking medicine.

he Red Ribbon Express train has travelled more than 27,000 kilometres across India bringing a special message of AIDS awareness to more than 50,000 towns and villages. Completing its travel across the country, the Red Ribbon Express visited 23 states, stopping at 162 stations, reaching more than 10 million people with messages about HIV prevention and health in rural areas of India. The focus of the train's most recent one-year journey across India was youth, with special emphasis on mobilizing adolescents and youth

Compiled by Annesha Banerjee and Anuja Bhardwajan)

Source: UNAIDS/National Health Portal/ NACO