Prevention versus Treatment

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Indian government data pegs the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 5 million.

Even if we assume the number is unrealistically low—the government’s methodology for data collection is roundly questioned—and triple it to 15 million as many NGOs do, the percentage is still less than two percent of its one billion plus population.

The numbers have made prevention the priority in India rather than treatment of those already infected. But keep in mind that in absolute numbers, India has one of the world’s highest numbers of people infected with HIV behind South Africa.

Affordable and accessible treatment programs must also be an important part of the strategy to bring this epidemic under control.

Here is footage of one prevention program called ASHA (“Hope”) which provides education to young women who are considered at risk because they have little or no education and are likely to be married at a young age. Through the program, they learn about HIV/AIDS, safe sex and are provided vocational training.

The program stresses the need for peer counselors to visit people in their own communities rather than bringing them to an office.

These young women and peer counselors meet in a one-room community center in a village at the edge of Hyderabad. There are no fan and no lights–just the hot breeze and sunlight seeping in through two windows.

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