[op-ed snap] Tackling HIV

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

Mains level: Stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in India & how it affects various policies being framed to bring down incidences of this disease


Context

UNAIDS report: Reduction in HIV incidence

  1. A new report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) bears good news for the global war against the syndrome
  2. Between 2010 and 2017, several countries made rapid progress in reducing HIV incidence and getting antiretroviral therapy to patients
  3. While the largest reduction in incidence came from eastern and southern Africa, Asia also made gains
  4. India, in particular, brought down the number of new cases and deaths by 27% and 56%, respectively, between 2010 and 2017

Efforts by India

  1. With 2.1 million cases, India is among the largest burden countries in the world
  2. Tuberculosis is the biggest killer of HIV patients across the world
  3. India is now able to treat over 90% of notified TB patients for HIV
  4. The social stigma surrounding AIDS-infected people in India, while high, is declining slowly too
  5. Survey data show that in the last decade, the number of people unwilling to buy vegetables from a person with HIV came down from over 30% to 27.6%

Gaps in policy

  1. The UNAIDS report points out that a country’s laws can legitimise stigma and give licence to the harassment of groups at the highest risk of HIV
  2. These include men who have sex with other men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers
  3. Indian laws don’t do well on this count
  4. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act criminalises several aspects of sex work, while Section 377 of the IPC criminalises gay sex
  5. Studies show that fear of prosecution under such laws prevents homosexual men, drug users and sex workers from seeking HIV screening and treatment
  6. As a result, these groups lag behind average treatment rates, although their requirements are higher

What needs to be done?

  1. If India is serious about tackling HIV, it must find ways to reach such groups
  2. Short of changing the law, the Centre can consider targeted interventions
  3. An experiment in Karnataka, between 2004 and 2011, shows that sensitising police personnel and educating female sex workers can greatly reduce arbitrary police raids and arrests

Way Forward

  1. The right to health is universal
  2. India must take note of this to ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against HIV

Back2Basics

United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

  1. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic
  2. The mission of UNAIDS is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to HIV and AIDS that includes preventing transmission of HIV, providing care and support to those already living with the virus, reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV and alleviating the impact of the epidemic
  3. UNAIDS seeks to prevent the HIV/AIDS epidemic from becoming a severe pandemic
  4. UNAIDS is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland
  5. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group
  6. UNAIDS has five goals:
  • Leadership and advocacy for effective action on the pandemic
  • Strategic information and technical support to guide efforts against AIDS worldwide
  • Tracking, monitoring and evaluation of the pandemic and of responses to it
  • Civil society engagement and the development of strategic partnerships
  • Mobilization of resources to support an effective response
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.
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