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AIDS - How It All Started?

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, DDV, FCPS, APEX, Diplomat American Board of Sexology
HIV Specialist, Mumbai  •  40years experience
AIDS - How It All Started?

In a conservative society like India, many people thought that the Anti Immunity Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) virus would never come to their shores because ‘Indians don’t act in those ways.’ However, as moral and sexual attitudes change in the subcontinent, AIDS is fast becoming the new scourge.

When was AIDS first considered as a problem?

AIDS was initially a problem in the early 1980’s with many American scientists noting that many Indian doctors were not aware of the virus’s presence because of cultural attitudes that the virus would never come to India. Still, Dr.Gilada, a doctor working with sex workers and their clients did an informal sample survey of government and private doctors in 1985. Her findings revealed that 80% of them were unaware of AIDS presence in India.

Based on this shocking finding, Gilada decided to establish an awareness program on AIDS because she knew that the virus would become a scourge if doctors did not treat it immediately. She wrote an article about the program which was featured in the October 1985 edition of Time magazine. She soon had a meeting with a representative from Abbot Labs who asked him to test sex workers for AIDS. She did so and found that 3 out of 600 tested positive for AIDS.

Shortly afterward, newspapers published that 6 sex workers in Chennai tested positive for AIDS. Notices were sent to representatives of Parliament, and awareness was raised. She examined sex workers in Chennai and found that 1 had AIDS, and 2 had HIV.

AIDS Education in India

Soon afterward, many ignorant doctors were being asked about the subject by the media, so Gilda decided to educate them about it because she already had the ready tests and information about it. Dr. Suniti Solomon was given official credit for detecting the first case because she was a mentor for a PhD student who was writing a dissertation on the subject.

Why AIDS is still a problem in India

The main reason for this is because of the fear of the disease, and the second is because of the social stigma attached to the primary ways in which it is contracted. Gilda believes that many people in India still keep quiet about the disease because of the ‘carpet culture’ which is prevalent in the nation. Gilda realized that controlling AIDS meant working with sex workers because 1 sex worker had the potential to spread the disease to 1,000 people.

How AIDS is currently being dealt with in India

Better education and awareness means that prevalence of the disease has declined by 90% because of people engaging in safer sex. As can be seen, more awareness and better education can make the ‘king’s disease controllable.

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