December 1 is observed as World AIDS Day worldwide and much brouhaha has been created in the media about the same. But do we actually realise the importance of this day? In our part of the world which still does not seem to understand the basic concept of protection of human rights, this day dedicated to spread awareness about AIDS often goes unnoticed like many other days by the common man. And here I do not refer to the Delhi’s metropolitan population. The widespread threat due to the deadly virus in India alone affects a huge, countless number of people, especially in the rural areas. It is countless because in many cases, the patients go unregistered.

No doubt the society has shown its concern for this cause. Movies like Heroes and My Brother Nikhil have taken to teach through arts. Many NGOs have done their bit by distributing pamphlets, having educational camps and resorting to street plays. These communities have shown a collective strong measure to at least spread basic awareness regarding AIDS and people affected by it. The recent instalment of condom vending machines and sanitisation of the government hospitals do show that all hope is not lost and the metros have stepped up their vigilance. But my focus does not concern the metros here. My concern revolves around the villages and remote areas where people still are not provided with healthy, sanitised conditions and are unaware of the concept of condoms! In many areas, polygamy is still practised and in turn, it leaves a whole lineage of people trapped in the crutches of HIV. According to a survey conducted in 2007, more than 2.4 million people were living with AIDS in India. And these are the official figures, so one can imagine how much more grim the actual situation would be. Our situation is comparable to South Africa’s.

Although there has been some progress in awareness about this disease led by NACO and NGOs, this is mostly so in urban areas. Also, the behaviour of the society towards the HIV positive people still needs much changing. The social stigma that surrounds the HIV patients is understood only by the affected person and his family and friends. For once and until eternity, even if the patient survives for a considerable period under anti-retroviral drugs, the mental stigma is so high that it often seems to the patient that he would rather have succumbed to his ailment unnoticed than to have found out about his positive state.

The societal stigma still exists and which is why I say many HIV+ patients go unnoticed on papers. Here, it is important to understand that even if we have answers to this rather controversial issue, we still behave in a very unjustified manner to the ailing ones. The people with AIDS are considered morally dirty. Worse still, there is still the myth that AIDS can be begotten through touch and air. Living with regressive ideas and half baked knowledge, neighbours shy away and the sufferers are often excommunicated from the village or society. For many people living in rural areas, the hospitals are too far away and they cannot afford the travel or the distance. Hence, they have to spend the rest of their life in isolation and the sick certainty of death.

Thus, on December 1, through this article, I would like to request the society to recognise its moral responsibility towards the unfortunate sufferers of the deadly virus and help make the little time that they have a tad liveable
Akriti Rastogi
(with inputs by Shravya Jain)

[Image Source:]