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Getting to Zero 2011 World Aids Day

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By Abhinay Kumar Sharma

The World AIDS Day is celebrated on 1st December every year.

World AIDS Day this year is about Getting to Zero, Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths. Backed by the United Nations the “Getting to Zero” campaign runs until 2015 and builds on last year’s successful World AIDS Day “Light for Rights” initiative encompassing a range of vital issues identified by key affected populations. “The potential for creative, connected and meaningful campaigning is really exciting,” says World AIDS Campaign Africa Director, Linda Mafu. “Our organization will focus on Zero AIDS Related Deaths, but the choice is there for others to pick a different zero or all three.”

The World AIDS Campaign 2011 focus on “Zero AIDS Related Deaths” signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now. It’s a global campaign that spotlights how our fundamental right to health is intrinsically and inextricably linked to other basic rights – The right to food, to shelter, to freedom, to clean water and safety. The global HIV response is at a pivotal moment, where huge strides forward are at serious risk and current approaches are reaching their limits. Only one third of the 15 million people living with HIV in need of lifelong treatment are receiving it.

The decision to go with the millennium development related goal of Getting to Zero comes after extensive discussions among people living with HIV, health activists, broader civil society and many others – more than a hundred organizations. The vision for this year’s World AIDS Day and beyond may be inspirational but the journey towards its attainment is laid with concrete milestones.

Situation in India
According to NACO an estimated 2.2 million people in India were living with HIV/AIDS in the year 2010 (88.7% adults in 15-49 years, 7.5% aged 50 and above and 3.5% children below 15 years). The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the country is 0.34%. Women account for 39% of HIV burden in the country. 8 states have HIV prevalence greater than the national average. India has been successful in containing the overall prevalence of the epidemic. However, there is no room for complacency as the epidemic spreads from high risk groups to general populations, from men to women and from urban to rural areas.

HIV/AIDS in the World of work
HIV/AIDS is a major threat to the world of work. It has shown maximum impact on the most productive segment of the labour force. In countries with high HIV prevalence rates, it has cut the supply of labour and slashed income of workers, adversely affected enterprise performance and national economies.

HIV/AIDS affects fundamental rights at work, particularly with respect to discrimination and stigmatization of workers and people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Stigma and discrimination at the workplace gets reflected in the form of loss of employment and livelihood opportunities in addition to ostracism and seclusion faced by workers either due to known or presumed HIV status.The threat of HIV to the Indian working population is evident from the fact that nearly 90% of the reported HIV infections are from the most productive age group of 15-49 years.

Focus Area within the National AIDS Control Programme

Expanding HIV/AIDS policy and programmes in the world of work is a key component under the mainstreaming strategy in the National AIDS Control Programme phase-III (2007-2012). The National AIDS Control Organization, realizing the need for focused efforts to mainstream HIV/AIDS in a sustained manner has established a dedicated mainstreaming cell which would be responsible for initiating and facilitating mainstreaming efforts with government, civil society organizations and businesses/industries.

It was observed that a national policy guideline on HIV/AIDS interventions in the world of work would be of immense value. The Ministry of Labour and Employment and the National AIDS Control Organizations, under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, have jointly developed this policy document. These guidelines have come out of consultation with the employers‟ and workers‟ organizations, people living with HIV/AIDS, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNAIDS.

Key Strategies

(a) Prevention of HIV transmission.
(b) Provide education and training at all levels in workplaces, set up interventions for behavior change through peer educators, integrate HIV in the existing / to be initiated programmes at workplaces like the training of the Human Resource Department, Welfare and OHS programmes, Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives etc.
(c) Set up interventions for unorganized/informal sector workers and migrant workers, based on vulnerability studies and risk assessment.
(d) Enhance access to condoms, treatment of STIs, universal precaution and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
(e) Widen scope of social security coverage to include HIV in employee and family assistance programmes, health insurance etc.
(f) Undertake vulnerable studies/epidemiological surveillance at the workplace to gather data/information for taking informed policy and programmatic decisions.
(g) Creating and ensuring an enabling environment to discourage stigma and discrimination towards people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
(h) Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships in HIV/AIDS Prevention and care.

Eventually, effective steps are being taken globally to surmount the pandemic and definitely we will achieve our targets. But there are two interlinked factors regarding this win-win situation, firstly, political determination to check the rate of HIV infection and secondly, social awareness to remove stigma-discrimination which is the main hurdle in the path of HIV/AIDS control program. The combination of these two factors can bring success in respect of our efforts. Because HIV/AIDS is a universal challenge before us that is why we need to step up universally in the same proportion as well. In sum, it is our collective responsibility for the sake of saving the next generation from this pandemic.

Photo Credit: The Hindu

Disclaimer: The views expressed by this author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Editor.

( Abhinay Kumar Sharma, Assistant Director (NACO),  Uttarakhand State AIDS Control Society, Dehradun)

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