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India is home to the world's largest young population. According to the data from the International Labor Organization, 66% of the population is below the age of 35. Among them, 40% fall into the youth category as per the National Youth Policy, including ages 13 to 35. Being the most effective engine for social change, it is crucial to take care of their wellbeing. Yet, when we look at the people living with HIV/AIDS in India, 35% of the cases belong to young people in the age group of 15 24, according to the data from UNICEF. And young men are among those who are most impacted. Therefore, in a bid to empower the youth and the next generation, the need of the hour is to put in a collective effort to combat the spread of the virus. Let us delve deeper into what steps could be taken.
Dr. Lalitha Palle, Founder of ForMen Health says, "In a bid to address the issues concretely, it is critical to get to the root cause of the matter. Among young men, there can be several reasons for HIV/AIDS transmission. As it is caused by the virus, it can spread through unprotected sexual contact, illicit injection drug use, sharing needles, contact with infected blood, and more. When we lend an ear to the people suffering from this deadly virus, we hear about a myriad of challenges."
First and foremost, lack of literacy on the subject is one of the biggest challenges. According to a report by Statista, only 28.5 percent of young men aged between 15 and 24 had comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS. Another obstacle is a lack of resources for maintaining their health and hygiene and their inability to access proper healthcare. Another concern is the fear of disclosing their HIV status to their friends, family, and others. Lastly, some of the young men struggle to prioritize their health owing to familial responsibilities.
In a bid to negate these challenges and address the issues of HIV/AIDS, some comprehensive steps can be taken. The solutions can include raising awareness, comprehensive sexual education, community engagement, and cultivating cultural sensitivity.
One of the ways that could help prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus is by raising awareness among young men. Providing information about its occurrence and its spread is significant for protecting the youth from the epidemic. It can help in changing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors as part of the prevention strategy.
The next solution can be implementing age-appropriate and evidence-based sexual education programs for young men. These programs can cover essential topics about safe sex practices, condom use, and the significance of regular testing. It can aid them in having better knowledge about effective prevention strategies and dispelling myths.
It is high time to encourage the youth to participate in community service projects related to HIV awareness and prevention. They can also involve themselves in different initiatives, such as fundraisers, awareness walks, and even volunteering. This engagement will empower the young men to take an active role.
The stigma towards HIV/AIDS is strong in India. It is grounded in different socio-economic categories in the nation, which is an obstacle to the prevention of the problem. Therefore, it is essential to tailor the information and material to be culturally sensitive and relevant to the diverse backgrounds of Indian youth. Addressing cultural norms can help create a more inclusive and effective approach.
As we strive to create a future free from the burden of HIV/AIDS, it is crucial to educate young minds about prevention strategies and myths while fostering a culture of inclusivity and understanding. To take the fundamental steps toward a healthy and compassionate nation, solutions can include raising awareness, providing comprehensive sexual education, encouraging community engagement, and cultivating cultural sensitivity.
By utilizing a combination of the above-stated steps, we will be able to educate the youth about HIV prevention and empower them to make informed choices. Moreover, equipping young men with accurate information and instilling in them a sense of responsibility can pave the way for a generation that not only strives to stay protected but also actively contributes to the collective efforts in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic