The world over, this day has been designated the World Aids Day and is celebrated since 1988 to raise the public awareness about AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome), a pandemic disease caused due to the infection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education. The day is celebrated by the government organizations, NGOs, civil society and other health officials by organizing the speeches or forums discussion related to the AIDS.
According to a 2012 UNAIDS report, globally there are an estimated 34.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS and out of this 2.1 million are children while the rest are adults: males and females, and 2.5 million are newly infected with HIV as of December 2012. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
Manipur is one of the six high prevalence states in India with HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women attending ANC being 1.4% (Sentinel Surveillance 2006). Manipur with hardly 0.2% of India’s population is contributing nearly 8% of India’s total HIV positive cases. More and more interior and hill areas are affected and are yet to be covered. Interestingly, while the State AIDS Policy was adopted by the State Government on 3rd October, 1996 and became the first State in India to have a State AIDS Policy, a slogan on the webpage of Manipur Aids Control Society (MACS) reads “Let’s aids each other to combat AIDS”. It is also evidently clear from the figures given on the website that it has been a few years since any significant update or studies have been made regarding the current status of the state vis-à-vis the dreaded affliction.
While the picture on the state front is not satisfactory or inspiring to say the least, there are positive developments elsewhere which indicate that there might very well be a new hope in the fight against AIDS. A new clinical trial has been launched in South Africa Wednesday on an experimental vaccine that could prevent HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The latest trial is only the seventh full-scale human trial for a virus that infects more than 2 million people and kills over 1 million every year worldwide. According to a statement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), HVTN 702 is the largest and most advanced HIV vaccine clinical trial to be undertaken in South Africa, where more than 1,000 people are infected with HIV in a day. The first participant of the new trial was enrolled on Oct. 26, and the results of the clinical trial are expected in 2020. The new study is based on an earlier trial — RV 144 — conducted in Thailand in 2009 which showed 31 percent drop in infections which , while not significant, paved the way for further investigations and improvements.
While the world is pressing forwards in the search for a cure to the dreaded disease, the best possible means for the public to stay safe is to be aware of HIV/AIDS, and to treat those living with the condition with understanding and empathy, for nothing works against the efforts to contain and control the spread of HIV/AIDS than to stigmatise and show them contempt. The state government and its implementing agency needs to monitor and update information and data regarding HIV/AIDS on a regular basis so that concerned public can get a better picture of the situation in the state.