HIV in Pune

Pune is the second largest city in Maharashtra, with a growing population of more than 40 lakhs (4 million). It ranks among the top five HIV prevalence cities in the state.

The reality of the impact that the HIV pandemic is having both globally and locally is becoming one that no one can ignore. Official figures report that in Jan-Oct 2007, 18,039 people in the city were tested for HIV at government testing centres. Of these, 12.27% tested positive. These figures exclude the thousands of people already living with HIV in Pune, along with those who are as yet unaware of their HIV+ status.

Although HIV is a treatable, manageable condition, many PLHIV in Pune are unable to access the free medication to which they are entitled. In February 2008, Indian Express reported that 3,300 people were still on the waiting list to receive life saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) from Sassoon Hospi
tal’s Anti-Retroviral Treatment Center. (Visit AVERT for more information about treatment access issues.)

Does Pune have a problem? Yes.
Does Pune know there is a problem? No.

As few as 8-10% of people infected with HIV actually come forward for help because they fear discrimination and stigma. Unfortunately it is often the people living and working in the poorest socio-economic conditions who are at the greatest risk of contracting HIV. 40% of Pune’s population lives in urban slum conditions where a lack of education and access to health information means that people are typically uninformed about HIV. People react to PLHIV with ignorance and fear, leading to discrimination against those who are infected, and to the spread of the virus since people are not empowered to protect themselves.

However, the reality is that HIV is not contained among only marginalized groups in society like the poor, injecting drug users, sex workers or men who have sex with men. In fact, 85% of HIV transmission in Maharashtra is through unprotected heterosexual sex. Silence, Ignorance, Fear, Stigma and Discrimination fuel the spread of HIV in this community.

The Stigma Chakra:

Silence: because of HIV’s association with sex and other perceived immoral behaviour, we become silent about HIV. This prevents us from obtaining accurate information, including about HIV transmission and prevention. This then leads to a state of ignorance. We remain ignorant about HIV while accepting myths surrounding HIV, which increase our ignorance. When our only knowledge about something is based on myths, ignorance and silence, we develop irrational fear. We fear everything that has to do with HIV, and our fear leads to stigma. The stigmatisation then leads to discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV, the groups deemed most at risk for HIV, and those looking for accurate information about HIV in order to protect themselves. Stigma and discrimination lead to more silence, and so the vicious cycle continues.

The Wake Up Pune solution? Foster new attitudes about HIV and AIDS… Encourage people to become HIV Positive. This means:

Positive about Education – educating ourselves and others about HIV and AIDS
Positive about Awareness – raising awareness in our wider community
Positive about Support – reaching out to people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS

See also : HIV Testing centres in Pune