Tolerance key to winning battle against AIDS

NEW DELHI: Calling for an attitudinal change towards those living with HIV/AIDS, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said strategies for tackling the scourge required more inclusive and less judgmental social approaches to questions of public health and personal hygiene.

“If we have to win this fight against HIV/AIDS, we have to create a more tolerant social environment. One need not condone socially unacceptable or medically inadvisable sexual practices in seeking a more tolerant approach to the problem. It is in the interests of the entire society that everyone afflicted with AIDS wins the battle against it. They deserve and have the right to live lives of dignity,” he said releasing here a report, “Redefining AIDS in Asia: Crafting an Effective Response” brought out by the Independent Commission on AIDS in Asia.

Dr. Singh said the situation in India was not as alarming as it was portrayed some years ago. While it was claimed that the country might have up to five million persons affected with HIV, more recent estimates suggested that the number could be between two and three million, mainly in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Special Correspondent, for The Hindu

The target intervention projects taken up with the focus on vulnerable populations were useful and necessary. This should be accompanied by more broad-based educational programmes. Modern sex education at appropriate school stages was of great value, he said.

The report warns that an estimated eight million Asians are likely to be infected with HIV by 2020 for, many countries are lagging behind in their response to AIDS. By then, it is expected, AIDS will claim an estimated 5,00,000 lives annually if governments do not change policies.

India accounts for roughly half the estimated HIV-infected population of Asia, with 2.5 million Indians living with HIV in 2006.

At the same time, the report notes, India has managed to slow down the epidemic in some States including Tamil Nadu which provide an effective and focussed HIV response.

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