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Curtailing AIDS - The Fight has to Go On

Tamil Nadu has to some extent attained success in curtailing the spread of AIDS and has many a times been in headlines for attaining new targets and milestones, However the challenges are far from over and new ones keep emerging. //

The fight against AIDS is well reflected by surveillance figures emerging from ante-natal mothers where the prevalence rate has fallen from 1.25 per cent in 1998 to 0.65 per cent in 2004. This is likely to fall further in the near future according to the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS).The other rates that have also shown fall includes transmission of AIDS infection through blood and blood products (0.18 per cent), sexually transmitted diseases (8.4 per cent) and among commercial sex workers (four per cent). .

The areas where problem still persist and the prevalence has actually shown a rise has been homosexual men and intravenous drug users In an interview to a national newspaper Hindu, S.Vijayakumar, Project Director, TANSACS said: ” We anticipate a further dip in the overall prevalence rates. The projections for the next decade map the epidemic through a path that can be clearly identified as the stabilization phase in Tamil Nadu."

The successes in Tamil Nadu has been due to the importance given to prevention by more groups working on these projects, implementing programmes that can bring about behavioral changes and better access to care. However many believe the success is due to involvement of many NGOs that are working with the government in Tamil Nadu.

The only way to fight AIDS spread is by using techniques that can communicate the importance of behavioral changes and use of condoms by the society. This is seen very well in Thailand and South Africa where the success has been far greater using this strategy.

The ABC (Abstinence, being faithful, Condom usage) strategies used in Thailand, Uganda and Zambia validated the use of the ABC policy.

Tamil Nadu has also the advantage of having a ‘Partners in Action Consortium.’ The task of this is to bring various interventionists together and reduce duplication of tasks. This brings co-ordinated planning for the State to fight AIDS.

The first case of AIDS was discovered in Tamil Nadu in 1965 and there are districts like Nominal, a major transport and poultry industry in Tamil Nadu, that has high incidence of AIDS that goes beyond the national average. The challenges are how to keep the efforts sustained and bring uniform behavioral changes among the men of the state so that the fight against AIDS spread can continue to show success.

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