"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Friday, August 10, 2007


A virus is a microscopic organism. Once a virus enters a living cell, it is able to reproduce itself hundreds or even thousands of times. It is able to infect, damage and cause the disease. Normally, when a virus enters your body, your immune system responds to it, fighting off the infection and helping you get better. The AIDS virus however attacks the system, making it incapable of fighting the disease.
AIDS stands for “Acquired immune deficiency Syndrome” here’s what those terms mean:
• Acquired: picked up from someone or something else
• Immune: involving the body’s infection fighting virus
• Deficiency: lack
• Syndrome: A set of conditions that occur together.
When the first few patients developed AIDS in the early 1980’s, doctors didn’t know what the disease was. By analyzing reports of old cases and new infections, researchers began to piece together a picture of the AIDS epidemic. They have found that while no part of the world has been untouched, the epidemic has followed different patterns in different regions and those patterns are changing. The spread of AIDS in Africa, Asia and the Untied States has been different in each region. In 1984, after much research in the United States and throughout the world was studied, two teams of scientists finally recognized the new disease causing virus. The virus was identified as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. The difference between HIV and AIDS is that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, and AIDS is a disease of the immune system. To stop the spread of AIDS, public health officials had to know who was being infected and how. As one AIDS expert explained it, “You’re never going to have good public policy on misinformation or wrong information. You have to know where the disease is occurring and how to go after it.”

AIDS is found nearly everywhere around the world but I have decided to focus on one certain country for which I feel it is my duty to make a difference. India has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world, according to the UNAIDS. There is an estimated 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and being an Indian myself, I am motivated to come up with a strategic plan to contribute my time and effort to make a difference and help those people who are suffering from this epidemic.
Having visited India this summer, I have learned a lot about the people, the living conditions as well as the working conditions. A description of the living conditions in Bombay is an average of 10-12 girls staying in one small room, and eating in filthy cafeterias. Most of the young girls abuse drugs or alcohol and smoke. I was surprised to learn that not more than 300 women sex workers would get treatment, and the number of males was about 100 per day. In a country where poverty, illiteracy and poor health are common, the spread of HIV presents an overwhelming challenge.
My objective is to review the trends of the spread of HIV infection in India. The methods I will use is to analyze the areas that are most affected by this epidemic and set up and focus on these main States and union Territories of India, by area and in time. There are various strategies in the effort to create change. I am planning on organizing an appropriate healthcare system for the women and children in Bombay. I would try to run camps, and open up one major clinic in a central area of the epidemic. In the camps, I would offer specialist care and diagnostic facilities to the women. Also, provide social relief and counselling programs to child prostitutes, senior sex workers and their children. The government’s role would play a big part in my project for funding of AIDS research and treatment programs that I hope to offer. Although no one seriously argues against having the government support for these programs, there have been plenty of arguments over how much support is enough. Meanwhile, government programs often seem to get bogged down in controversy or bureaucracy.
There are already hundred’s of organizations that are taking part in preventing this future epidemic. I would try to organize fundraisers, marathons, and make brochures to create awareness in schools, companies, and to the general public. This would help me raise money and have funding to develop the facilities that are needed in Bombay. I have no doubt that an incorporated progress with the help of the government, society, healthcare companies, hospitals, teachers, students and sex workers themselves is the only way towards total positive change. I have included a list of all the major organizations that take part in preventing AIDS at the end of my report.

The latest key trends that are seen in this epidemic are the following:
• According to NACO, the number of adults (15-49) living with HIV/AIDS in India has increased by 35% since 2000, although it has been relatively stable for the past two years, increasing by 2% between 2003 and 2005, UNAIDS estimates that overall HIV/AIDS prevalence among those 15 and older increased by 8% between 2003 and 2005. Both UNAIDS and NACO estimate that the prevalence rate remained stable, at 0.9%, over this same period.
• NACO also collects AIDS case surveillance data from SACS but these data only provide a snapshot of the epidemic, given the delay in progression from HIV infection to an AIDS diagnosis and the large number of people living with HIV who do not know their status. This is the case in every country, including the United States.
• Data on new HIV infections in India are not currently available. One way to approximate this figure is to apply India’s share of the global total of people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS (15%) to the global total of estimated new HIV infections (4 million), yielding an estimate that approximately 600,000 Indians may have been newly infected with HIV last year. [i] Some alarming trends that have been seen in the Global AIDS Policy coalition projects in the year 2000, is that 38-110 million adults were affected with HIV. The undeveloped and poor nations were hit the hardest. Poor countries were unable to afford to test their blood supplies for HIV. Hospitals and clinics are not always able to use hypodermic needles when they are doing medical procedures; they usually re-use the dirty ones.
One of the latest innovative programs that have come out to treat the people with HIV is a new affordable medication called “antiretrovirals”. Antiretrovirals are used to kill the virus in pregnant women and infants. The Indian government has implemented a campaign that provides these drugs to the people that need it most. The government is also giving 6,500 children pediatric antiretrovirals and says that it has begun to identify all the others who will need treatment.

AIDS has been seen as an immediate death sentence, and a horrific one, to the infected person. There was fear that this epidemic could wipe out mankind. Now, although there is still no cure for AIDS, education and other aggressive actions are preventing the spread of the disease. On an individual basis, the length and quality of life of people living with the AIDS virus is dramatically increasing. So basically, in this report, you have found out that AIDS is a killer virus and that anyone is vulnerable to the disease. There is no 100% percent sure ways to prevent the AIDS virus, so you better be very careful what you do. And finally, you learned that there are no 100% test-proven cures, so once you get it, it’s with you for life. However we all must be optimistic forthe future of everyone. As well as being optimistic one must understand for all those who have AIDS, we are only human.



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