Every HIV positive case is a grim reminder that we missed opportunity: Dr. Ishwar Gilada, President, AIDS Society of India

India has done well, not only for itself but it has also contributed immensely by making antiretroviral therapy (ART) affordable and accessible to over 90 per cent of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world, believes Dr. Ishwar Gilada, Secretary General of People Health Organisation, President of AIDS Society of India (ASI), and Governing Council member of International AIDS Society (IAS).

However, the President of the AIDS Society of India also reiterates that every HIV-positive case in the country is a grim reminder that we missed another opportunity to prevent the infected person from getting infected, with a wide range of available prevention methods and options.

Factors like the lack of accountability, sub-optimal programme effectiveness, and complacency are slowing us down from reaching the goal of an AIDS-free world,” said Dr. Gilada.

We have adequate and efficient tools to end AIDS – be it the science-backed tools and approaches to prevent HIV transmission, or diagnosing and treating PLHIV so that they can live healthy and fulfilling lives. With these tools, we are progressing but not progressing fast enough as we should, to end AIDS by 2030,” adds Dr. Gilada.

Notably, World AIDS Day is annually observed on December 1 to call for standing in solidarity with millions of people live with the deadly HIV/AIDS virus, reflect upon what has been achieved towards the prevention, control and management, and look closely at where do we lag, as a society.

The UNAIDS informs an astonishing figure – an estimated 2.4 million people were living with HIV in India in 2021 (including 70,000 children.) out of these, 1.9 million of 77 per cent knew their HIV status; 1.6 million (or 65% of 2.4 million) were on lifesaving antiretroviral therapy, and 1.3 million (or 55% of 2.4 million) had suppressed viral load.

More alarmingly, 63,000 people were newly infected with HIV in 2021 in India – 173 new infections every day or seven infections every hour. And sadly, there were 42,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2021 (5 deaths every hour).

Dr. Gilada informed that in the quest to achieve #endAIDS goals, elimination of parent-to-child transmission of HIV (or vertical transmission of HIV) is a crucial aspect, as that does not even need a behaviour change, unlike the sexual mode of transmission.

Coverage of pregnant women who receive medicines to prevent HIV transmission to the unborn child (during pregnancy or breastfeeding) is 64%. Vertical transmission rate including during breastfeeding 24.3%”

This is another „missed opportunity‟ which we truly cannot afford to ignore if we are to end AIDS in next 96 months (by 2030), rather we should completely eliminate parent to child transmission of HIV as early as possible,” says Dr. Gilada.

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We know how to prevent HIV, diagnose HIV, treat, care and support PLHIV. But the gap between – where we are and where we need to be or „what we can do‟ and the ground reality is a chasm we cannot afford to have anymore. Bridge the gap to end AIDS,” Dr. Gilada urged.

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