Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fighting HIV/Aids – Many Means, One Goal

Amidst the pessimism springing from the recent failure of about 150 prevention trials that failed to shield subjects against HIV infection, there's the resolve to continue research on developing a vaccine, and battle through all the challenges the process poses.

On a pessimistic note, hope of a vaccine in the short term isn't anywhere in sight as France's National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS) has expressed. Though not in the short run, the Scripps Research Institute expressed optimism with a possibility of a vaccine in about 10 years. Till that time, the available HIV drugs need to reach one and all.

Apparently, HIV/Aids is quite a multi-headed monster. While efforts to curtail it continue, research reveals newer risky trends among people, and unravel findings that appear to be quite startling.

Risky Trends

Consider the case of India where and estimated 2 to 3.1 million HIV infected persons reside. Researchers inform that young call center workers are becoming a breeding ground for the infections because of unprotected sex with many partners amongst the staffers. About 1.3 million people graduate in India, many of whom choose to work in call centers due to good starting salaries of US$ 600 (from Indian standards).

But if you thought that India was alone, leading the trend, look at the trend in the UK, where about 33% men who have men as their sexual partners, and are aware of their HIV status, engage in unprotected and risky sexual behavior. The study was released by the Medical Research Council.

Sometimes, it's the governments who may appear to be immature on the issue. For instance, the Jamaican administration has announced that it wouldn't regulate commercial sex work or even decriminalize it. The move is being seen as a missed opportunity for the admin to raise about $43 million, in taxes by regulating sex work, and that this money could then be used to finance the nation's HIV/STI program.


Research, while it unravels mysteries, sometimes it does so at the cost of shaking you out of comfort zone. For instance, the report, from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, notices increasing HIV/AIDS infection rates among intravenous drug users, sex workers and gay men. Or that, as a study published in the Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases reveals, that many people think their partners aren't infected, even without an STD/HIV testing.

However, not all is grim about the HIV/Aids scenario, a lot of efforts to fight it are underway.

A Shining Workplace Program

Realizing the gravity, the corporate sector in Mozambique has stepped forward to take the bull by the horns. Mozambique's Confederation of Business Associations (CTA) has unveiled a program called EcoSIDA that's meant to address the malady in workplaces. The aim of the body is to test workers find their HIV status. Perhaps, there are lessons in the initiative, for Indian call center industry to learn from.


In Florida, US, with the National HIV Testing Day approaching on Friday, June 27, the health agencies and not-for-profit groups would host several educational events to inform and seek active participation Southwest Florida’s minority communities. Minorities have higher than average infection rates.

At the same time, in another part of the world, Yemen, a nongovernmental organization from the UK Pogressio and The Interaction in Development Foundation, organized a three day meet along with local religious leaders on combating HIV/AIDS linked discrimination.


An opinion column recently questioned America's unfair policy on HIV/AIDS of not allowing HIV infected people an entry into the country. The column includes a pointer to China which recently withdrew a similar ban.

On another front, the teenagers of the New York state made a request to the political leadership asking them to enact a Healthy Teens Act meant to provide fund for comprehensive sex education in schools. Similarly India's National AIDS Control Board has approved the country's National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) initiative to make care centers for kids with HIV.

Although it's heartening to see efforts on many fronts, however a lot remains to be done. While governmental policies do take time to take effect, education and initiatives to improve the reach of existing pharmaceutical drugs for HIV can perhaps be accomplished much faster.

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