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HIV/AIDS in INDIA: a short timeline

College students pose with HIV/AIDS awareness messages painted on their faces during an awareness campaign in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh November 23, 2011. REUTERS/Ajay Verma (INDIA - Tags: SOCIETY HEALTH)

A simplified time line of HIV- AIDS spread and stabilisation in India

HIV/AIDS pandemic has been in the making for for over for three decades now. First identified among the gay community in the United States in the seventies, the HIV virus has since spread globally.

Below is a short indicative time line of HIV detection, spread and stabilisation in India.

1987- 1992:

  • HIV virus is first detected in Chennai among female sex- workers in 1986 marking the first reported case of the virus in India.
  • Over time, the discovery leads to large scale and extensive coverage in the vernacular media especially in southern Indian States creating ripples in the local population.
  • This marks the era of educational literature as well as provincial government funded information, communication and education (ICE) strategy.
  • With a large movie theatre going population  movies/ featured films play a major role in increasing awareness.
  • However, in the eighties. the issue is underplayed by the central government at New Delhi.  
  • In fact, underplaying the intensity of the HIV prevalence had then been a common feature in all African countries as well where the AIDS pandemic has been the severest and the human cost the highest- India.
  • International attention to cases of victimisation by law enforcement authorities becomes a factor in the central government having to take notice of the situation. Yet a policy and administrative time lag remains.
  • At the same time, large number of cases of harassment of high risk communities in red light areas by local police are reported in the press.


  • HIV- AIDS pandemic is born.
  • International institutions including the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) start support for scientific- medical solutions through an Disease Control strategy.
  • The then Indian Prime Minister Mr Narshima Rao adopts World Health Organisation’s prescribed ‘AIDS-control’ strategy through a nation wide pharmacological programme under a National Aids Control Organisation (NACO).
  • The government set up the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to oversee policies and prevention and control programmes relating to HIV and AIDS
  • In 1999, the second phase of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP II) was introduced to decrease the reach of HIV by promoting behaviour change.
  • Big pharmaceutical companies lobby for Control route.
  • Alternative policy approach of centrality of non- medical Disease Control Prevention.
  • Disease Prevention means a higher public health policy priority to  socio- cultural, behavioural and economic causes  of HIV transmission in the population.
  • Policy prescriptions from the liberal-left cultural Marxism AIDS PREVENTION strategies.
  • This strategy has been opposed by religious fundamentalists for including sex education and contraceptive awareness issues.
  • AIDS funding becomes a politically contested issue.
  • NGO industry, advocacy groups gain in prominence and funding.

2002- 2012

  1. The India public fear and anxieties reach at its peak.
  2. ‘News’ of people contacting HIV virus through strategically placed ‘needles’  on cinema hall seats by psychopaths become a common feature.
  3. Large scale philanthropic funding from organisations such as Gates Foundation.
  4. Drug Prevention strategies get major boost with NGO industry working with communities.

2012- 2017

  1. The HIV spread is controlled. Fewer new cases being detected.
  2.  The number of cases  of have Persons living with HIV  stabilised.
  3. Focus now on ensuring affordable and regular  medicine supply to needed persons.
  4. HIV infested mother to child transmission control becomes focus area for public health authorities.
  5. Target of “Ending the epidemic by 2030” to meet goal Sustainable Development Goals.
  6. In April 2017, the Indian Parliament  passed a landmark bill titled the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014.The bill seeks to assure treatment to patients without stigmatising them and for action in the event of being denied treatment.
  7. Research on a HIV- AIDS vaccine currently taking place.

About HIV/ AIDS Treatment

Overcoming the public fear and stigma. Contrary to general perception , HIV presence in the body does not  have to stop one from living a long, happy and fulfilling life. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to live as long as any average person’s life expectancy. However, and this is important, one should start medical care and begin HIV treatment as soon as one is diagnosed with HIV virus presence through a viral load testing.

Keep CD 4 high and be healthy. CD 4 are the cells that the HIV virus kills. As HIV infection progresses, the number of these cells declines. When the CD4 count drops below 200 due to advanced HIV disease, a person is technically diagnosed with having  AIDS. A normal range for CD4 cells is about 500-1,500.

Taking medicine to treat HIV called anti-retroviral therapy or ART is recommended  by the World Health Organisation  for all people with HIV virus presence, however low the viral load be. Taking medicine to treat HIV slows the progression of HIV in the body and helps protect the immune system. The medicine can keep one healthy for many years and greatly reduces your chance of transmitting HIV to sex partners if taken the right way every day.

(Research desk, Uncolumn)

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