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World AIDS Day 2022: the numbers in context of Sikkim

December 1 is when the world commemorates World AIDS Day every year. In 1987, the idea of World AIDS Day was introduced. This day is observed to promote communication about AIDS and HIV amongst local and state governments, international organizations, and private citizens.

James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officials at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, came up with it. It has been coordinated and promoted by UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) since 1996. Then, on November 30, 2017, then US President Donald Trump proclaimed December 1 to be World Aids Day.

In addition to paying homage to AIDS patients, it is held to demonstrate support for those who are HIV-positive. As the initial international health day, World AIDS Day was created in 1988. In order to close the gaps and disparities that limit HIV testing, prevention, and access to care, this day also serves as a call to action for people to band together globally.

Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a serious health condition and due to the several ways it can be transmitted from an infected person to a healthy person, and the sad thing is, myths around this disease are highly prevalent.

Each year, UN-affiliated organizations, governments, and civil society organizations join together to promote campaigns based on certain HIV-related topics. This is to ensure that the significance of this commemoration and the theme of the year is understood broadly.

The theme for World AIDS Day this year is “Equalize.” It implies that everyone should try to end the injustices that, in the opinion of UNAIDS, are impeding the effort to eradicate AIDS. The subject chosen for this year is the most recent in a long line of concerns.

The disease has now been in the limelight for a while, with people now understanding more and more about HIV and AIDS. Now, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the world’s most serious public health challenges, but, as the date December 1, and the commemoration shows us, there is an evident global commitment to stopping new HIV infections and ensuring that everyone with HIV has access to HIV treatment.

As of the end of 2020, 27.4 million people with HIV (73%) were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally. HIV treatment access is key to the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat. People with HIV who are aware of their status, take ART daily as prescribed, and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners.

As per the India HIV Estimates 2021 fact sheet, released by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), a total of 24,01,284 AIDS cases have been reported in India.

“At the national level, estimated adult HIV prevalence (15-49 years) has declined since the epidemic’s peak in 2000 where prevalence was estimated at 0.55% in 2000, through to 0.32% in 2010, and 0.21% in 2021,” the report said.

Now coming to Sikkim, Sikkim State AIDS Control Society (SSACS), established back in April, 1999 with a goal to halt and reverse the epidemic of AIDS, functioning as per the guidelines of National AIDS Control Programme (NACO), are the front runners of all things HIV/AIDS in Sikki. They have also established Targeted Intervention Programmes which is implemented through the help of local NGOs.

According to the latest data provided by SSACS in their rendition of today’s World AIDS Day program, at STNM Hospital in Gangtok that included awareness skits, marathons and felicitations, it was established that there have been a total of 578 HIV cases in Sikkim till March, 2022.

The numbers, in context of Sikkim say:

  • 578 cases in total in Sikkim as on March 2022, this spans from 1995 to 2022
  • April 1986 was the first recorded case in India
  • 78% people living with HIV know their HIV status, meaning 22% are still oblivious about their condition.
  • 100% who know they’re HIV positive in Sikkim and are on ART
  • 98% HIV positive mothers on ART
  • 0% vertical spread from mother to child
  • 63,000 new infection in India as of march 2022 for the year 2021-22
  • Test done in Sikkim: 28 tests per 1000 people as per 2021-22 data
  • Highest number cases in Sikkim is in age group of 20-39 years

It is evident with the numbers, corresponding national with the state, that Sikkim is doing well in terms of managing, treatment and prevention. However, the highest cases are in the age demography of what is considered to be ‘youth’. The alarming situation does call for introspection and research, and more of the awareness campaigns that the NGOs and societies like SSACS have been labouring on to organise.

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