All-out efforts a must to end AIDS a public health threat by 2030

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Awareness and infection control are immediate priority areas

New Delhi, 20 September 2018: For AIDS to cease being a public health threat by 2030, the National AIDS Control Programme (NACO) would need to pull out all stops and reduce new infections to 75% by 2020, against the 2010 baseline. There has been a 71% decline in AIDS-related deaths in India due to scale-up of the anti-retroviral programme (ART), compared to 48% worldwide. However, the coverage stands low at 56% against the global target of putting 82% of people living with HIV on treatment by 2020.

Unprotected sex with an infected person and injecting drugs are two of the leading causes of new infections in India. Ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is only possible only if services are offered to all, including high-risk groups.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Ever since the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was discovered and identified as the cause of AIDS, scientists have been on the hunt for a cure, which is proving to be elusive. The HIV virus remains concealed in the reservoir cells; for this reason, the HIV infection, which is in remission with antiretroviral drugs (ART), becomes active again as soon as ART is discontinued. Killing these latent reservoirs is therefore essential to achieving cure. One among the curative strategies, which has been explored the most, is the ‘kick and kill’ strategy. It is based on the premise that ‘kicking’ (reactivating) the latent reservoirs would make the hidden HIV visible to the immune system, which then ‘kills’ (destroys) the reactivated virus and thus eliminates the latent reservoir.”

More mass awareness campaigns, availability of various state-of-the-art medical interventions, and evolving technology can make this possible. WHO recommends innovative HIV-self-testing and partner notification approaches to increase HIV testing services among undiagnosed people.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the President (Elect), CMAAO, said, “One of the ways to combat HIV infection is to ensure supply of safe and sterile syringes. A major reason for continued prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS is the social stigma that our society associates with the disease. There is an urgent need to remove this stigma and treat those affected by this condition with compassion and understanding. The 25th Perfect Health Mela this year will discuss some of these issues in detail. This also happens to be the Silver Jubilee year of this event.”

Some facts from HCFI

  • HIV/AIDS is now a chronic manageable disease. The new mantra is test and treat and not to wait till the disease manifests
  • The treatment is totally free within the government setup. Government is thinking of starting home testing of HIV like pregnancy test
  • ABC for safe sex: Abstain, be faithful to your partner and if you cannot, use Condoms.
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs interferes with judgment. Even those who understand the risks of AIDS and the importance of safer sex may become careless after drinking or using drugs.
  • People with STIs should seek prompt treatment and avoid sexual intercourse or practice safe sex.
  • Used infected razor blades, knives or tools that cut or pierce the skin also carry some risk of spreading HIV.
  • HIV-positive people may remain asymptomatic but can still pass on the virus to others.