- Many researchers believe that India has become home to
the largest number of HIV-infected people in the world. As many as 20
people may be living with HIV in the subcontinent.
- India stands at the same crossroads as Africa a decade
ago with respect to this epidemic. Confronting HIV/AIDS requires
of the proper interventions to steer India in the direction of
- If these "best practices" are not taken, the
country and its inhabitants will become victims of one of the most
diseases of modern times. There would be nothing more tragic than seeing
a country as rich in culture and history, and with as much potential as
India, being destroyed by an epidemic that could be avoided with relatively
easy and inexpensive interventions.
- One of the keys to successfully combating the HIV/AIDS
epidemic is the creation of an infrastructure that concurrently develops
healthcare networks, education programmes, and community participation.
A vast majority of the infected population currently lives in high-risk
groups, such as prostitutes, in major cities like Mumbai, the epicentres
of the AIDS epidemic in India.
- However, the disease is now creeping into the lives of
ordinary middle-class men and women, exactly as it did in sub-Saharan
One major goal of any prevention programme must take into account the need
to halt the spread of this disease from urban, high-risk groups into rural
areas, and the public in general.
- Preventing this trend involves educating people in
cities and villages of the danger of AIDS. This should be done through
the existing education systems in India. Girls, especially, need to be
given continued education until at least sixth grade. Many young girls
drop out of school and are married off with little knowledge of the world
- Studies have proven that girls with higher education
levels are more likely to make responsible social decisions. Although many
factors contribute to this correlation, education basically gives young
women the assurance and ability to make their own choices. Confidence is
essential when confronting an issue as intimate and deadly as AIDS.
- In comparison to Africa, India has a great advantage
because of its structured education system. However, imparting both the
necessary social and academic education involves solidifying the current
system and focusing on motivating young girls to stay in school.
- Another issue that must be addressed through education
is the stigma of being tested for HIV/AIDS. Many people in India believe
that if someone is tested then they must be carrying HIV, otherwise they
would not need to be tested.
- Furthermore, if they are tested positive, this prejudice
prevents them from being able to afford medical help and being accepted
as productive members of society. Although the Indian government has
awareness programmes, AIDS remains widely misunderstood due to strong
taboos and the lack of education.
- Confronting this disease is a difficult task. However,
we must start somewhere, and we must start now. In this sense, Indian
can play a key role in combating the AIDS epidemic. First, by providing
the financial support to galvanize and leverage funding of the needed
- The Indian government has had very limited success in
its few interventions due to the severe strain on its resources because
of the numerous other problems it must confront. It is up to the community
concerned to take the leadership and some of the financial responsibility
for the programmes that need to be implemented.
- Money is not the only necessary resource. It is
that Indian Americans also provide moral support, the motivation, and
to create the HIV/AIDS programmes needed.
- The programmes that are implemented need to be created
by local organizations, which are known and respected by the community.
A remarkable example of this is the charity of the American Association
of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).
- AAPI has donated thousands of dollars to develop medical
clinics and facilities throughout India. Their clinics have been formed
using local doctors and local practices.
- These clinics not only provide basic healthcare needs,
but also create local leadership that otherwise might not exist.
- If the AIDS epidemic continues to grow as it has, India's
future is limited and jeopardized. Education is the key to preventing this
disease from expanding to all sections of the population. Although it has
already started, there is still time to contain the epidemic.
- The misery or prosperity of India's future lies in all
of our hands. Education is the path to a successful future. By educating
the children, cultural prejudices will be diminished and the children will
be better prepared to make the proper decisions for their futures. Through
the collective efforts of all of us, there is hope for this future.
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