HIV has an interesting story. It was called something else in the beginning, a dreadful word that reflected our incomplete understanding of the disease and was associated with a stigma as well, it was called GRIDS( Gay related immunodeficiency Syndrome). A disease that would wipe out humanity.
Over the years we changed the name to AIDS(acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-one full mark for learning the full form in tenth standard). We realised that this could happen with any sexual intercourse irrespective of the gender of those involved in it. We also realised that it spreads via blood transfusion, mother to child, and intravenous drug abuse as well. We devised drugs to treat it(Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy- HAART). Yet the disease continues to be present.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is educating people about the disease and it’s prevention. We are a very traditional society and matters of sex, leave alone sexually transmitted diseases, are spoken of in hushed up voices. Here’s a list of preventive measures that can be of help:
The first is safe sexual practices and that means using condoms. One can have all the fun one wants, but with a condom. Our health is not worth a few moments of ignorant pleasure. And any good quality condom( including but not limited to government-supplied condoms) protects against HIV. But just having a car does not mean one can drive it. So, a condom used inappropriately is as good as a condom not used. It is essential to know how to use a condom properly. If you are embarrassed to ask it to someone, consider googling it once. Use it well.
Secondly, being informed.COVID has taught us that panicking never helps. Slowly, steadily informed decisions improve our lives. So if you are in doubt get tested. The tests are free of cost. And don’t be afraid of the disease..it’s manageable. The Government of India and all-state governments are committed to providing free testing and treatment under ICTC(integrated counselling and Testing Centre). If you are worried about anything, get in touch with a Link worker who will get you in touch with government services. And remember your HIV report is confidential.
Also, the Government of India aims to provide at these centres counselling, you can have your queries solved. If you know an Adolescent, who is engaging in unsafe practices put them in touch with the local Saathiya worker, a peer-based approach to adolescent sexual health, or ARSH ( adolescent reproductive and sexual health) clinic.
Misinformation is more harmful than ignorance.HIV does not spread by touching, hugging, kissing, or sharing food. Heck even HIV positive mother’s give birth to HIV negative children if managed by medical professionals.
Which naturally brings us to our last and perhaps most important point.Humanity. Don’t stigmatize people with the disease. Don’t judge them or their personalities. And remember they are people like us who were unfortunate to get the disease. So stay informed and stay safe.
A disease can never define a person, a community, or our human race at large. And each one of us is rather like a soldier in defence for ourselves. It is our responsibility to prevent the disease and not let it define us.
Written by: Abhishek Uppal