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World AIDS Day 2023: The growing number of people living with HIV(PLHIV) is also exponentially increasing the stigma around the disease. There are 24 HIV-afflicted people as of August 2022. The most essential barrier-breaking pillar against such stigma is a comprehensive awareness of the infection. Various myths need to be busted and facts established in HIV awareness. There are so many groundbreaking advances in HIV treatment that the life span and quality of life-improving medicines are available. Dr Dilip Gude, Senior Consultant Physician, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad,explains how this makes PLHIV less contagious and infective to others by decreasing viral load to less than 100.
Government agencies should proactively come forward and offer free HIV testing, the results of which shall be kept confidential. If we achieve a testing rate as close to 98-99% as possible, then there is a fair chance of decreasing the number of newly afflicted HIV patients.
These stigmas may discourage the general public from getting tested as a positive result may outcast them and, in return, result in increased spread of HIV. Any discrimination faced by PLHIV, including health care workers refusing to treat, societies banning them from entering premises/casual contact, and socially isolating, are all unethical, immoral and even illegal. Families, communities, education centres, workplaces, justice systems, etc, are places where PLHIV can face discrimination, and these centres need education and awareness against the stigma. Support groups that help PLHIV are the need of the hour where one can openly discuss the fears, the taboos and discrimination faced, etc.