`Getting to Zero`


By Victoria N
Getting to zero would be disheartening if in case of results at school or in college. Getting to zero as per the World AIDS Day theme for this year would however pose as a motivational factor for those aware of HIV/AIDS. This years’ theme of the three zeros namely, ‘Zero New Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related Death’ in its simplicity covers all aspects of HIV. In the state however, as much as the legislators may raise hue & cry over all the zeros, the fact remains that a new infection(s) is being made this very day while another person is discriminated socially and yet another is being cremated upon due to AIDS related death.

In the socio economic context of our state, the challenges of developing effective response to HIV/AIDS is immense Owing to our social setting, People living with HIV (PLHIV) are kept at safe distance like as if the person exhales spurious gas when around. The fear of getting ‘contaminated’, despite all the awareness programs raised by many organizations, government bodies and NGOs across the state is still not able to reach the public in masses as expected or hoped. A new infection is being made vis-à-vis mother to child, Intravenous Drug User (IDU), blood transfusion or through sexual methods this very moment globally. The effort of reaching out to the masses has helped only to a point when the society or family looks at HIV as something that is not taboo. A new infection can only be stopped through careful propagation of awareness and understanding HIV.

Medical practitioners and health professionals should be made aware of the legal and ethical issues regarding discrepancy for tests, refusal to treat somebody with HIV and even measures about guarding themselves against transmission due to their professions. In many clinics across the state, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is not given to health professionals. It is disturbing to learn that some of them are not even aware of PEP despite working in a profession that puts them at high risk of getting infected.

It is a need of the hour to adhere to legal bindings around it to an extent that those who do not comply should be made to support a PLHIV in all aspects. Our society should begin by understanding that ‘Zero new infection’ can be achieved only if we are aware of HIV. By shutting ourselves from the so called ‘tabooed disease’ and not discussing it we are risking perhaps our own children from getting infected.

Given the states’ muddled setting of law & order amidst the JAC cultures and the endless climb in the social status, it is only natural why many new infections are being made by just being ignorant. If those sitting idly, or protesting against the many causes are being made aware of how HIV is transmitted and accept PLHIV just as they would accept anybody with a chronic illness, there would be lesser infections and in return lead to more acceptance socially. Many people tend to forget that society is formed by like minded people or groups.

From educational establishments, government departments to healthcare services, discrimination in the form of cautionary alienation to disturbing mental and emotional trauma exists. It is a fact that even though healthcare professionals are ready to treat patients with HIV with their newer knowledge and methodologies, the discriminatory factor still exists. Taking into account the plight of a mother whose son was refused treatment when admitted for jaundice at a local hospital because he was HIV+, it was disheartening to learn that the hospital gave an excuse of being overbooked so as to prevent the boy from checking in since the doctors and nurses were afraid to attend to him. There may be many and worse cases than this and yet no action has been taken up against such establishments. If a child is denied admission in school, the school authorities should be booked, if a person is denied employment, the matter should be taken up, Likewise, if a hospital, medical professional denies treatment or if the facility doesn’t provide substantial precautionary methods such as PEP etc to its staff, the license should be revoked or fined. Many such legal bindings exist and had a case such as the aforesaid occurred in the western countries, it would have made headlines yet it is being overlooked here. More often than not, PLHA’s are often referred from one department to another. It is as if nobody wants to take responsibility or rather, the fear psychosis that plays the discriminatory role.

Recently, there was a case of the locality people spraying a crematorium with phenyl after a person who was HIV + had been cremated. Not only is such an incident insulting but also shows the lack of understanding of HIV in our society. It is indeed appalling that even during death, people discriminate.

After the decades of HIV identification and sensitization, it is high time that we use the varying degree of knowledge available and tackle with targeting multidisciplinary approach by providing knowledge with training, workshop and creating professionals/social models to interact. Reducing its spread requires behavior change by both the infected and the uninfected. Such change cannot happen without a paradigm shift in the values and attitudes that shape individual and cultural behavior, enabling communities to openly address taboo issues around sexuality, social inequality and HIV/AIDS.

It is about time we rose to the cause, our own cause of preventing further spread by understanding HIV and ‘Getting to Zero’.


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