As global issues and causes go, HIV/AIDS seems to have gone a little bit out of fashion — compared to, say, global warming and the environment. But this shift away from the limelight does not seem to be based on any significant alleviation of the problems of dealing with HIV/AIDS, at least in India. Unicef’s 2013 Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS declared India as one of the 12 high-burden countries, including a number of African nations, which are home to the 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV in 2012. The situation is particularly serious for girls, and there are 130,000 infected adolescents in South Asia, of whom 49 per cent are female. Unicef warns that if these countries do not invest around $5.5 billion by next year, then there could be another two million infected adolescents by 2020.
India should not, of course, need the pressure of figures to acknowledge the reality of HIV/ AIDS. Activists and lawyers believe that the cabinet could begin by approving for introduction to Parliament a bill that has been lying around since it was drafted in 2006. It is important to get this bill passed because once it becomes law, people living with HIV would be given threefold protection. First, they will be protected against discrimination in their public and private lives. Second, the law would enforce confidentiality regarding their HIV status and records. Third, the government would then have to provide them with not only free drugs and treatment in the initial stages of their infection, but also in the secondary and tertiary stages of the progress of the infection. The importance of this legislation for the prevention and treatment of HIV cannot be emphasized enough. Children, adolescents and adults, especially females and the underprivileged, continue to suffer from discrimination in most places, including hospitals, schools and workplaces, and lack of access to treatment and medicines remains a problem in the country.