HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the world’s worst health epidemics. Today 36.7million people globally live with HIV, but 30% don’t even know it. Despite the fact that two-thirds of sufferers live in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV is more widespread than we think.
Due to its size, India actually has the third largest HIV epidemic, with 2.1million people living with HIV.
Unlike many other plagues where sufferers are considered victims, HIV and AIDS have a weighty stigma attached to them. This is partly due to the large amount of misinformation about how one can catch the disease, but those with the virus are often blamed for contracting it and feared as a carrier.
A Healthy Nation Is A Happy Nation
Good health is a universal human right. According to the United Nations: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care, and necessary social services.” However, the right to health is more than access to quality health services and medicines; it also includes the right to:
- be treated with respect and dignity, free from discrimination
- gender equality
- access to sanitation and housing
- nutritious food
- health education
- healthy working conditions
- a clean environment
- freedom from harm and access to justice
- the ability to make decisions about one’s own health.
We’re happy to report that because the Indian government has been vigilant in its fight, HIV infections have reduced by half since 2001. Furthering that effort, Parliament passed a HIV and AIDS Prevention Bill earlier this year to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS and prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV).
The government must now provide free anti-retroviral treatment for any persons testing HIV-positive. In an effort to ensure that Indian PLHIV’s health rights are robust, the bill also includes a number of other important provisions. It ensures confidentiality; protects PLHIVs from discrimination and hate speech; assures that every PLHIV under 18 has the right to live in a shared household and enjoy its facilities; makes gender-sensitive, non-stigmatising HIV and AIDS education programmes available; and facilitates access to welfare schemes.
My Health My Right
Tomorrow, Friday, December 1, 2017 is World AIDS Day. This day unites people worldwide in the battle against HIV. It is important because there is still a fundamental need to increase awareness and education, raise money to find a cure, and fight prejudice.
UNAIDS’ 2017 campaign focuses on the right to health and finding ways to ensure that people globally can realise that right.
How can you participate?
- Show solidarity by wearing a red ribbon.
- Post a picture of how you are realising your right to health (for example, a photo of you when you go out walking and breathing fresh air, taking medicine, drinking clean water, playing sports, etc.) and tag it with #myrighttohealth.
- Share resources with teachers and schools to help spread awareness of how students can protect themselves and feel empathy for PLHIV.
- Volunteer for a trusted organisation supporting PLHIV.
- Donate to finding a cure.
Support NGOs working to ensure Indians’ right to health.