Uttarakhand’s AIDS crisis: How public shaming plays a role

The UN's 2030 deadline to eradicate AIDS faces huge obstacles due to poor awareness and public stigma. Read in this report about the challenges of AIDS in Uttarakhand…

Last Updated on April 27, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Since 1988, December 1 has been observed as World’s AIDS Day. However, the rising number of AIDS cases in Uttarakhand and other parts of India, has become a major concern.

The Almora district of Uttarakhand recorded eight new AIDS patients in 2021, adding to over 110 patients in the area discovered in the last five years. Despite the health department’s efforts to raise awareness, the increasing number of cases is a major concern. Government statistics reveal that there are 8356 registered AIDS patients in Uttarakhand. However, only 5000 of them are receiving treatment. If patients avoid treatment out of fear of humiliation, they not only jeopardize their own health but also put others at risk. It is disheartening to note that despite the availability of antiretroviral therapy centres that offer free treatment, many AIDS patients still avoid seeking medical help.

Devastating impact of unprotected sexual relations on AIDS crisis

The rising number of AIDS cases in India can largely be attributed to unprotected sexual activity. This has led to over 17 million cases of infection between 2011 and 2021. India has a relatively high literacy rate of over 70 percent and a widespread media coverage about AIDS. However, awareness about the spread of AIDS remains a significant challenge.

Careless management of medical equipment like blood-extracting needles is another factor contributing to the spread of AIDS. Thousands of people visit hospitals for treatment daily, with at least 20 percent going for medical tests, including blood tests. It is very crucial to ensure careful blood tests, using new needles for every patient. Failure to do so can result in the rapid spread of diseases like AIDS.

Intersection of addiction and AIDS

According to Dr Pradip Joshi (name changed), who works at Soban Singh Jeena Hospital in Haldwani, Nainital, drug addiction is a major contributor to the spread of AIDS in Uttarakhand. The dangerous practice of using shared needles to consume addictive substances is rampant among the youth. This poses a significant risk as even a single HIV-positive user can infect others.

Until recently, AIDS was considered incurable. However, doctors can now manage its impact with medicines and prompt treatment. Some people believe that medication alone can cure the disease. But regular check-ups are critical for the treatment. Early detection is crucial for effective AIDS treatment, but societal taboos often prevent people from seeking care. This can lead to the disease’s spread.

Battling AIDS in Uttarakhand though education

Mahendra Singh Adhikari, a young resident of Sirsora village in Lamgara block, Almora said that media is the most powerful way to reach out to people. Thus, it can be very much effective in raising public awareness over AIDS. 

Additionally, education can also play a big role in controlling AIDS. One way is by providing information about the issue in primary and higher educational institutions. This can increase public awareness. There should also be an effort to remove any reluctance in discussing gender-related topics in school curricula. It is crucial to educate the youth about the dangers of AIDS, so that they can take necessary precautions to avoid it.

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