Adherence to drugs, regular health check-up and following proper diet are needed

From a fatal life-threatening disease of the early nineties to a chronic manageable disorder in 2012. This is how doctors and HIV specialists describe the dreaded HIV/AIDS now.

“The disease is as manageable as diabetes or hypertension now, provided the patient maintains a cent per cent adherence to drugs and follows a proper diet and nutrition regime,” said HIV specialist Glory Alexander.

Pointing out that she has patients who have managed to control the progression of the disease for the last 14 to 15 years, Dr. Glory Alexander said this is possible with a simple and regular medical follow-up. “When you speak of managing HIV/AIDS now, it is just the same as you would speak for the management of diabetes and hypertension. Rest and relaxation, diet and nutrition and involving the family, especially the spouse in the treatment process is crucial,” said Dr. Glory Alexander.

Referring to the latest advances, the doctor said an HIV positive mother can deliver an infection-free baby as treatment is available now. “This was not the case a few years ago. Studies on preventive treatment are also being carried out in other countries. This can prevent transmission of the infection to the spouse or other vulnerable people,” she explained.

Agreeing with Dr. Alexander, Chandrika, who is living with HIV for over a decade now, said the disease was no longer a fatal health problem. “The fear of the disease and the isolation of infected persons that was common in the past is gradually decreasing. Comments such as “if you have HIV/AIDS, you will die” which we faced in our early days, are not heard now,” said Ms. Chandrika, who works as a leader of the Bangalore District Network of Arunodaya.

Decline in new infections

B.B. Rewari, National Programme Officer (Anti-Retroviral Therapy) for the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), who was in Bangalore recently, told The Hindu that there is a 56 per cent decline in new infections in the country.

The number has reduced from 2.70 lakh new infections in 2001 to 1.27 lakh new infections in 2010. As of now, 2.39 million people are living with HIV in the country with a prevalence rate of 0.31 per cent, he said.

Scenario in Karnataka

B.M. Ramesh, Director (Monitoring and Evaluation), Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, said the trust implemented the Avahan, an initiative to prevent the spread of HIV in high-risk groups in the State till March 2012, with support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and that it had yielded tremendous results.

A Lancet study titled “Assessment of population-level effect of Avahan, an HIV-prevention initiative in India,” published last year has concluded that an estimated 1,00,178 HIV infections were averted from 2003 up to 2008 as a result of Avahan implemented in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Quoting the study, Dr. Ramesh said: “Karnataka achieved more success and at least 40,000 infections were prevented in our State alone.”

NACO fact sheet

Referring to the NACO Fact Sheet 2012, Dr. Ramesh said the percentage of adult HIV prevalence in the State in March 2012 remained at 0.63 per cent with 2.45 lakh infected persons.

“Of this, 2.09 lakh infected people are already registered at the 49 anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres. This is a very high percentage when compared to other States where more than 50 per cent of estimated population infected with HIV do not know their HIV status,” Dr. Ramesh added.