Our Business Unit is conducting a HIV/AIDS awareness in our organisation and as a part of this, they arranged for guest lecture by Ms. Vinitha Sidhartha, Senior Media Director, Heroes Project. Heroes Project is involved in HIV/AIDS awareness work in India and chaired by Parameshwar Godrej and Richard Gere (of Shilpa Shetty kissing fame!!).
Heroes Project she is associated with is working on creating HIV/AIDS awareness, increasing the usage of condomns, women empowerment, counselling for affected persons by tying up with various NGO's across the country. Vinitha talked about the need for HIV Awareness among the population and dispelled some myths about HIV. She clarified that HIV is an infection which reduces the ability of the human immune system to fight against diseases. Nobody dies of HIV/AIDS but because of the failure of immune system to fight other diseases like Malaria, Jaundice leads to death ultimately. You can visit the Heroes Project here.
Also the fact that people infected with HIV can lead a normal life for more than 20 years after contracting the virus by following healthy food habits and lifestyle.
India is the second highest number of HIV infected persons in the world after South Africa. (This is my guess!!) The saddest part is that most of the people are not even aware that they have been infected with HIV and continue to transmit them. Among the Indian states, Tamilnadu, Andhrapradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Manipur has been identified has highly HIV prone area. It doesnt mean that other states are better off. Only these states has some reliable data on the incidence of HIV.
HIV virus spreads through unsafe sex, blood transfusion, mother to child, sharing of syringes etc., Of this, 85% of the HIV incidence is sexually transmitted. Nagaland and Manipur finds a place in this exclusive list because of the rampant usage of intravenous drugs in these two states. She advises that HIV test should be encouraged among the people so that early detection helps in preventing rapid transmission. It takes a long time to recognise the symptons of HIV in your body, sometimes even upto 7 years.
After a brief talk for 20 minutes or so, there was an open session for questions. The participants were reluctant to ask questions on this sensitive subject, as expected. Your truly, started with a question on HIV transmission through blood transfusion. She clarified that blood transfusion is the cause for very low number of HIV cases. If you go to a reputed hospital, the chances of you getting infected due to blood transfusion is very low. She doesnt rule out completely.
Vinitha feels that sex education would go a long way in spreading the HIV/AIDS awareness among the young population. We know the stauch resistance to the introduction of sex education in the school curriculum. She also lamented about the lack of support for these programs by the mainstream media. TV and Radio Channels are highly reluctant to openly discuss about HIV/AIDS and the causes for the same. Even condomn advertisements were not accepted by a leading Tamil TV channel citing the reason that it may offend the viewing public. She was really pizzed off with this double standards by the media when they can show rapes, murders and other non-sense. Yes, she is right. What she says makes sense. Doesnt it? Anyway, India and Indians were known for double standards in everything and this particular aspect cant escape.
The state of Tamilnadu also came under lot of appreciation from her. She said the state Government is doing their best in awareness, treatment and provision of medical facilities compared to other states in India. Hats off to TN Government!
Overall, it was an interesting evening for me by getting know more about the dreaded HIV/AIDS!?