HIV/AIDS primarily affects people during their most productive period of their life and can lead to premature death, severely affecting the socio-economic situation / condition of the family, society and country.
HIV infection leads to weakening of the immune system, making it prone for repeated opportunistic infections. The average time for HIV leading to AIDS could be between 8-10 years. Thus, some HIV-infected people who are symptom free and unaware of their test status could be passing on the infection to others.
The common routes of HIV infection (unprotected sexual contact and sharing of contaminated needles) are considered either immoral or illegal and punishable by the local courts of law. Open discussion on HIV/AIDS is often a ‘taboo’ subject in many countries. Sexual practices are essentially considered something very private and personal to the individual, posing a great challenge in addressing them. These factors lead to lack of access to correct information about HIV/AIDS, indirectly strengthening the prevalent myths and misconceptions, adding fuel to the fire in enhancing the stigma and discrimination against people who are living with HIV/AIDS.
Global reports on HIV/AIDS shows an increase in HIV prevalence, rise in new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA). Since 2001, the number of people newly infected with HIV in MENA has increased alarmingly by more than 35% and the estimated number of people living with HIV increased from 210,000 to 300,000 between 2005 and 2011.
Everybody can do something about preventing the further spread of HIV.
‘Safety First’ – Both men and women have the right to correct information on the disease and are responsible to protect themselves by avoiding behaviours that might lead to HIV infection.
‘Inform others‘- Initiate or be part of the awareness campaign (especially in schools, universities and at work place) in spreading the correct information about HIV/AIDS, dispel the myths and misconceptions and join hands to fight against the stigma and discrimination faced by people who are living with HIV/AIDS. Commit your time to National AIDS Campaign of Ministry of Health on ‘Zero New Infections, Zero Deaths and Zero Stigma and Discrimination'.
‘Concerned and seeking an answer’- The three month ‘window’ period (time taken for HIV antibodies to develop and be detected by blood test) can be a difficult long waiting time. There might be need for maintaining confidentiality and anonymity in testing in the strictest sense in the HIV testing centers. The best option in such situations would be to visit Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) Centres and take an HIV test. VCT services provide pre and post test counseling services and can reach out to your locality through their mobile outreach services.
‘Strengthen Response to the epidemic’- Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are able to bring in the close interpersonal interaction with the community of risk groups and people living with HIV/AIDS they work with. They play a very important role in implementing the behavioral interventions necessary for HIV/AIDS prevention and care. However, the prevalent of stigma and discrimination associated with the People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) inhibits NGOs, corporate sector and people volunteering to fight for the cause in large numbers.
HIV/AIDS information for general public: