It is estimated that around 2.4 million people are currently living with HIV in India (UNAIDS 2010).
HIV emerged later in India than it did in many other countries. Infection rates soared throughout the 1990s and today the epidemic affects all sectors of Indian society, not just the groups – such as sex workers and truck drivers – with which it was originally associated.
In a country where poverty, illiteracy and poor health are rife, the spread of HIV presents a daunting challenge.
As hundreds of different dialects are spoken in the country, many of the prevention efforts are best carried out at the state and local level. To complement the local initiatives, the government has funded a number of national campaigns to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS (e.g.: ‘Condom Bindas Bol!’ to break the taboo that surrounds condom use, 'Red Ribbon Express’ to provide education, testing and STD treatment).
Worst affected states
Even as it moves into the general population, the HIV epidemic is still misunderstood among the Indian public. People living with HIV have faced violent attacks, been rejected by families and communities and been refused medical treatment. As well as adding to the suffering of people living with HIV, this discrimination is hindering efforts to prevent new infections.
Even if the country's epidemic does not match the severity of those in southern Africa, it is clear that HIV and AIDS will have a devastating effect on the lives of millions of Indians for many years to come. It is essential that effective action is taken to minimise this impact.
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