The world has made significant progress in the development of healthcare infrastructure and facilities. Through research and targeted vaccination programmes, we have managed to eliminate several diseases from the world. However, despite all the development, HIV has remained a major global public health issue.
World AIDS Day
December 1st is celebrated as World AIDS Day. On this day, people around the world unite to show support for people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS.
On World AIDS Day 2021, UNAIDS is highlighting the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world. Thus the theme of the year is “End inequalities. End AIDS.” This is because, without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the targets to end AIDS by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and a spiralling social and economic crisis.
In a report released last year, Prevailing against pandemics by putting people at the centre, UNAIDS called on countries to make far greater investments in global pandemic responses and to adopt a new set of bold, ambitious but achievable HIV targets.
Global HIV Prevention Coalition (GPC) for Prevention of HIV
GPC is a global coalition of United Nations Member States, donors, civil society organizations that was established in the year 2017 to support global efforts to accelerate HIV prevention. The members of the coalition include the 25 highest HIV burden countries, UNAIDS Cosponsors, donors, civil society and private sector organizations. Its goal is to strengthen and sustain political commitment for primary prevention by setting a common agenda among key policy-makers, funders and programme implementers.
The member states of the coalition had made a commitment to reduce new adult HIV infections by 75 per cent at the end of 2020 from 2010 levels. In addition to this, the UNGA has made a commitment to end AIDS by 2030, making the conference of this year very significant.
On November 18th 2020, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally addressed a ministerial meeting of the Global Prevention Coalition (GPC) for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) prevention and highlighted the strength of working in solidarity. Acknowledging the success achieved by Global AIDS response in reducing new infections, improving access to prevention services for key population and treatment services for People Living with HIV (PLHIV), reducing AIDS-related mortality, enabling a reduction in mother to child transmission of HIV and creating an enabling environment, Dr Vardhan noted that the organization “has shown to the world a model where multiple stakeholders can come together and work cohesively towards a common goal.”
The conference was hosted by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on behalf of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition (GPC).
India’s HIV Burden
India has the third-largest number of HIV positive cases in the world. There were almost 2.1 million people living in the country with HIV in 2015. This represents 0.26 per cent of the country’s adult population.
National AIDS Control Program
The first phase of the National AIDS Control Program was launched in 1992 by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Subsequently, the second, third and fourth phases have been launched with the latest being in 2014. The program is focused on bringing about a behavioural change towards AIDS and AIDS patients, a decentralised approach for tackling the disease, and increasing involvement of NGOs and networks of Person Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV).
India’s model to fight against HIV is centred around the concept of Social Contracting through which the Targeted Interventions (TI) is implemented. The program is aimed at providing outreach, service delivery, counselling and testing as well as ensuring linkages to HIV care.
In addition to this, the government of India has enacted The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 which has provided a legal and enabling framework for safeguarding human rights of the infected and affected populations. A new initiative called ‘Project Sunrise’ was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2016, to tackle the rising HIV prevalence in north-eastern states in India, especially among people injecting drugs.
National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) 2017 – 2024
The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) has now revised the national approach to reach ‘the last mile’ – in order to ensure a more effective, sustained and comprehensive coverage of AIDS related services. This approach is being implemented by the NACO through a seven-year National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS and STI, 2017-24.
According to the plan, the focus of the national programme from this year will be on achieving the following fast track targets:
1. 75% reduction in new HIV infections,
2. 90-90-90: 90% of those who are HIV positive in the country know their status, 90% of those who know their status are on treatment and 90% of those who are on treatment experience effective viral load suppression
3. Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis
4. Elimination of stigma and discrimination
By 2024, the further achievements envisaged are:
1. 80% reduction in new HIV infections
2. Ensuring that 95% of those who are HIV positive in the country know their status, 95% of those who know their status are on treatment and 95% of those who are on treatment experience effective viral load suppression
CSR Initiatives to fight against HIV in India
Twitter’s Dedicated Search Prompt for HIV #ThereIsHelp
Twitter has launched another expansion of its #ThereIsHelp notification service with a dedicated search prompt for HIV-related information. The notification prompt will provide valuable and authoritative resources around HIV and encourage people to reach out and get help when they need it. This launch is an extension of Twitter’s efforts to help people access high-quality public health information and resources, and will be available across Asia Pacific and the Americas: Brazil, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, SP-Latam, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States.
With this prompt, when people search for keywords associated with HIV and/or AIDS, the top search result will now include a notification in Hindi and English, encouraging them to reach out for credible information and sources of help — be it websites or hotlines of local public health authorities or nonprofit organisations. Some of the search keywords include but are not limited to:
For the launch of the #ThereIsHelp HIV search prompt, Twitter has partnered with the National AIDS Control Organisation, Ministry of Health (@NACOINDIA).
Vedanta’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign in Jharsuguda
Vedanta, under its project ‘Jagruti’ organized HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Jharsuguda’s rural margins, reaching out to more than 2000 people. The members of the company’s Mobile Health Unit (MHU) team sensitized the masses on the various facets of HIV/AIDS, including prevention of the diseases and the need to address the associated stigma and discrimination of the affected.
Ambuja Cement and Apollo Tyres Initiative to Tackle HIV/AIDS among Truckers
The trucking community is notorious for being carriers of HIV/AIDS. The Dhulagarh Truck Terminal in Sankrail, on the outskirts of Kolkata, is a major transport hub with approximately 6000 trucks halt there every day so that truckers can park their lorry, await entry into the city at night, drop off and pick up a new load and continue the routine. The truck drivers work in tough conditions with unusually long working hours and also stay away from their family for months. The difficult road and driving conditions and the long working hours take a toll on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of truckers and many of them access Commercial Sex Workers with a small percentage of the truckers using condoms. This has led to a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the trucking community.
Amubuja Cement Foundation in partnership with Apollo Tyres Foundation initiated the establishment of a Health Care Centre under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. It was established in 2009 at the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal and provides a range of health care services such as the prevention, identification and treatment of HIV/ AIDS along with other sexually transmitted infections.
Prerna by Johnson and Johnson India
Prerna is a CSR initiative of Johnson and Johnson India aimed at preventing and reducing HIV/AIDS in the most vulnerable youth populations in Mumbai, India.
Children born in red light areas without any basic protection against sexual assaults can be some of the worst victims of exploitation – especially when they have lost their mothers to HIV/AIDS. With Johnson & Johnson’s support, Prerana has deployed an HIV/AIDS project in Mumbai’s red-light areas to address these issues. Prerana intervenes with timely and well-planned activities intended to bring about awareness and knowledge, reduce internalized stigma, and foster confidence and self-worth to shape every child’s individual growth and development process.
The program also works to prevent and reduce the high vulnerability to HIV/AIDS among adolescents, youth and children especially girls who are susceptible to commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, and to fight against stigma and discrimination. Johnson & Johnson also supports The Healthy Futures Project, which aims to provide training to build the capacity of the Prerana staff members in the monitoring and evaluation process.
HIV/AIDS initiatives by Tata Main Hospital
Sneh Kendra is an HIV/AIDS CSR initiative by Tata Main Hospital (TMH). The hospital began its HIV/AIDS initiatives in the early 1990s, both in the workplace and community. The senior management established the Nodal Centre for AIDS with the task of bringing focused efforts across Tata Steel as well as working with other Institutions, Governmental & industrial agencies. Apart from conducting AIDS awareness programmes, TMH started HIV counselling and testing facility. For follow up, the organisation established Sneh Kendra in 2005, to lend support to People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). In addition to this, the organisation has also started Preventing Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) program for HIV+ pregnant women.
Interventions to Tackle HIV/AIDS by J.K. Tyre Industries Limited
J.K. Tyre is actively engaged in the prevention of HIV/AIDS among the trucker community. The Company has partnered with NGOs, which are running ten health clinics at high-risk HIV/AIDS locations. These include ‘Khushi Clinics’ in association with TCI Foundation at five locations and ‘Jeevan Kiran Clinics’ along with their partner NGO, Vatsalya, functioning at Jaipur, Shahpura, VKI Nagar, Udaipur and Gwalior. The project has benefited more than 20,000 patients, especially truckers, during FY 2017-18. The company has supported a network of People Living with HIV AIDS (PLHIV) in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan and also provided emotional support, guidance, medicines and nutritional supplements to HIV-positive people. There are 1,034 PLHIV enrolled in the network and many of them have been also linked with various Government social schemes such as Antyodaya and Palanhar, among others.