“Thank God, my kid is healthy and does not have HIV, but I wonder if I will be lucky this time,” says Renuka, a 28 year old woman from Andhra. Five months pregnant with her second child, Renuka’s anxiety is both evident and understandable – she has been HIV positive since 2006.
A blood test at a blood donation camp in 2007 revealed the bitter truth. One doesn’t have to wonder long about the source of the deadly virus as she frankly confesses, “It is due to unsafe physical relations with non-regular partners.” And though she struggles to live peacefully with the condition, trying to integrate herself with the community, the pang of dejection is never far away. Grateful just to be alive, however, she tries to stay optimistic.
Renuka is not the only one in this lonely fight. Millions of others have contracted the virus in the same manner. Now aware of the pitfalls of unsafe sex, Renuka strongly advises against having multiple and unsafe sexual relationships.
The Andhra Pradesh AIDS Control Society survey reveals that AP has the highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the country, with two percent of the low-risk general adult populations represented by women. It has also been found that the prevalence of sex with non-regular partners (NRPs) is substantially higher in the state than the all-India average. As the problem reaches epidemic proportions, the issues of care and support for the affected individuals and prevention of HIV transmission from those affected has become critical.
Lack of awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS among women - both educated and un-educated – is a major factor leading to the virus’ spread. “Usually people do not know how the virus is transmitted and the gamut of myths surrounding the disease doesn’t help matters either,” says Dr. Surendra Mantena, medical expert and consulting physician at MedPlus Health Services.
He adds, “At our clinics, we believe the primary control measure is to educate people and demarcate between facts and myths surrounding HIV/AIDS. HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is infected, or less commonly through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Since all transfused products are now routinely screened for HIV, the chances of infection through this route are remote. It is important to know that HIV does not survive well in the environment, making the possibility of environmental transmission remote. Normal physical contact with a HIV infected person also does not transmit infection. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.”
On the importance of curbing this epidemic, he comments, “Individuals should become aware of the risk factors associated with contracting HIV including unsafe sexual practices and IV drug use. Since HIV tends to be asymptomatic until an advanced stage, periodic testing the key for people at risk. Public health measures should include Counselling and Confidential Testing.
Hereby there is a friendly advice to all those youngsters about to get married.. It’s not a sin to get yourself thoroughly checked up before marriage. Go get the HIV test done. It’s good for both of you.