The first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in Tamil Nadu, India in 1986. Since then the virus has spread from the high risk groups to the general population very fast. Today, there are 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India.
Women and Children
Women and children are increasingly becoming vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. The new findings conclude that 38% of the infected persons in India are women. The male - female ratio of infected people shifted from 55 per 100 males in 2001 to 60 in 2005. This indicates the increasing feminization of HIV/AIDS in India.
This alarming trend is being observed closely as more HIV positive mothers will unknowingly pass the virus on to their children. The incidence of parent to child transmission jumped from 2.7% to 3.5% in just one year.
India has an estimated 2.2 million children infected by HIV/AIDS. As of July 2006, about 1,850 children were receiving ART in India. NACO with support of Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Clinton Foundation, UNICEF and WHO have formulated the policy and guidelines which form the basis of the “National Paediatric initiative” for children living with HIV. NACO under this initiative has set a target for providing Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) to 10,000 children in 2006-07. This initiative has been launched on 30th November by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and William. J. Clinton.
Click here to read more on National Paediatric initiative.
Over 35% of AIDS cases reported are below 25 years of age and 50% of new infections are between 15 and 24 years old. The current HIV/AIDS programmes are reaching only 15% of young people and 17% of high risk group sub-population such as sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users. Less than one quarter of young people have accurate information on how to protect themselves from HIV which, coupled with profound gender inequalities, make change in sexual attitudes and practices very difficult. It is estimated that there are 200 million young people in high prevalence and highly vulnerable districts who need access to information, skills and services to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection.
Primary prevention among young people is the greatest hope to change the course of the epidemic in India. As a result, the Adolescent Education Programme has been conceived by UNICEF, NACO, Ministry of Education, UNESCO and UNFPA. The programme is implemented in all states across the country through the Department of Education (DoE) in collaboration with the State AIDS Control Societies (SACS).
This programme aims at 100% coverage of schools by 2006-7 (33 million students every academic year). The curriculum includes growing up, HIV/AIDS, life skills and extra curricular activities. Already, 110,000 of the 150,000 high schools in India trained teachers and peer educators to pass on life skills and preventive messages.
On 1st December 25 best performing teachers were given national awards for imparting knowledge of HIV/AIDS amongst students.
Click here to Read more about National Teachers Awards.
Communications and Advocacy
Communications and advocacy on HIV/AIDS is essential to break the silence and contain the spread of the decease. To achieve this, UNICEF works on two levels: (1) Promote HIV/AIDS awareness among young people and empower them to take collective action to fight against HIV/AIDS. (2) Influence the policy-makers and key stakeholders at national, state and district levels to influence the policy, promote multi-sectoral response and increase government resources to fight against HIV/AIDS.
(1) Unite for children Unite Against AIDS
UNICEF has been carrying out focused popular campaigns to raise awareness among the children and young people through Unite for children Unite Against AIDS.
This campaign calls upon everyone to join together to put the care and protection of children, adolescents and young people at the centre of the HIV/AIDS agenda. Specifically, the campaign will work to mobilize resources, foster corporate social responsibility, move toward universal access to antiretroviral treatment, reduce the price of existing treatment and testing.
UNICEF popular campaigns are supported by famous celebrities from all walks of life, including films, sports, faith networks, political leaders and positive networks themselves.
This year, during the Championship Trophy, world cricket teams have taken up the issues of HIV/AIDS and delivered Public Service Announcements (PSAs). Through these PSAs world famous cricketers asked children and young people to learn more about HIV/AIDS and protect themselves and people around them form HIV infection and respect people who are HIV+. The South African team went a bit further and got involved in a special progarmme with HIV+ children in Gujarat.
Click here to read more about Unite for children Unite Against AIDS.
(2) Policy and Advocacy
UNICEF works hand in hand with the Government of India through NACO in order to influence the HIV/AIDS policies. Currently UNICEF is influencing the new HIV/AIDS Bill to make sure that children and women are well represented and HIV infected and affected children are granted with all rights on par with grown up adults.