The effort to involve various ministries and departments of the Government in the national response to HIV/AIDS is a welcome step towards prevention and control of HIV in the country. Tackling HIV/AIDS has related social, economic, human as well as psychological dimensions.
India has been able to bring about consistent declines in HIV prevalence, new infections as well as deaths due to AIDS-related causes. There has been an overall reduction in annual new HIV infections by around 57% over the last decade. However, the task is not yet over. We do need the support and partnership of other Ministries to meet the objectives of accelerating the reversal process and moving towards the global goal of Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma and Discrimination and Zero Deaths. The national programme has fostered several partnerships, which contributed to its success. Noteworthy among the partners are the World Bank, DFID, USAID, CDC, UNDP, UNAIDS, UNICEF, BMGF, experts, research institutions, civil society organizations, communities and positive networks. A joint effort by all stakeholders has been successful in arresting and reversing the tide of AIDS epidemic in India over the years.
With increasing survival of persons living with HIV due to the availability of Anti Retro-Viral Therapy, the need for ensuring social protection to them and their families is of great importance in the current scenario and will become increasingly so in the times to come. It is of utmost importance that the overall socio-economic development of these marginalized communities should be facilitated so that they can manage their health in a better way. This requires a multi-sectoral response from the government, with catalytic roles played by ministries in their respective areas. It was with this intention that the National Council on AIDS was formed constituting 31 ministries and other important partners. Mainstreaming and partnerships has been recognized as a key approach under National AIDS Control Programme to facilitate a multi-sectoral response engaging a wide range of stakeholders. Responding to HIV has been a strategic priority for India as we seek to address stigma and discrimination towards HIV and enable persons infected and affected with HIV, better access to health services. Unstinted support is required from the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and Ministry of Youth and Sports for reaching Injecting Drug Users and youth who are vulnerable. Improving access to de-addiction and rehabilitation services would help in sustaining safe behaviours. Similarly, Transgender and Sexual Minorities can also be provided social protection through the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, which can reduce their vulnerability to exploitation and Health risks including STIs and HIV.
Women and children are highly vulnerable groups, bearing the burden of infection both directly and indirectly. The frontline workers of the Ministry of Women and Child Development can help in identifying positive pregnant mothers and bringing them to health services for ensuring that “No infant is born with HIV infection”. The new and more efficacious Prevention of Parent To Child Transmission regimen of the Department of AIDS control can make this possible with the support of the frontline workers and medical fraternity.
Everyone to move ahead seriously and join hands with Department of AIDS Control in meeting the National objective of preventing and controlling the epidemic. The different ministries to issue policy directions, make budgetary allocations and collaborate in setting up inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms at the operational levels to track progress.