Today is the World AIDS Day, and the campaigns by national governments, civil society and international organisations have moved beyond creating awareness about the fatal disease.
The United Nations has launched the #therighttohealth to prove that good health is a basic human right, even for those afflicted with AIDS. It also includes the right to treated with dignity and equality.
There was an uproar when Princess Diana shook hands with an AIDS patient in 1987. She was visiting a hospital in London, and in her characteristic anti-authoritarian nonchalance she greeted an AIDS patient. This was in a time when much stigma and taboo surrounded the disease.
There was a loud shattering against the myth that AIDS spreads with touch. But we seem to have come some distance since that time. Now movies are made, books are written, ad campaigns are undertaken to speak about AIDS.
The film ‘Philadelphia’ starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington showed that even the afflicted are very human and no different from others in their emotions and life.
The film ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ as well spoke about the truth about the illness, around which many beliefs and stories revolved.
Back in India, much taboo engulfed talking about the affliction. It obscured talks of prevention and cure. But slowly, things are changing. NGOs used the medium of street plays to spread awareness about it. The sing ‘Fatak’ in film Kaminey by Vishal Bhardwaj openly advocated the use of precaution against AIDS.
Advertisement about discrimination at workplace is also a great campaign in support of the patients.
While the number of new infections has fallen by 57% in the last decade in India and this is a cause to celebrate, it is no time for complacency. There are many who still die unnoticed, and without help. While the stigma is reducing, there is a lot of scope to create awareness about its prevention, and institutionalised help to those afflicted.