HIV/AIDS: A taboo subject

December 1 is commemorated the world over for HIV/AIDS patients. Awareness is key to prevention from HIV/AIDS, however, the ‘stigmatisation’ of certain social issues in Pakistan has been harming the country for decades. HIV/AIDS is one of those social taboos.

Lack of education and information about the disease has resulted in the increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases. Reportedly, there are nearly 100,000 people in Pakistan living with HIV/AIDS, but only 15,370 are registered. HIV – human immunodeficiency virus – is an infection that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the white blood cells called CD4 cells. If left untreated, it can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

In Pakistan HIV/AIDS is considered a big stigma. People with AIDS are considered unequal, unhygienic and pariahs. People do not think it as a disease, like cancer and tuberculosis, instead, they consider that people with this disease are monsters. Because of the humiliation, most of the patients do not disclose their illness. Therefore, HIV is becoming a serious health concern in Pakistan. Moderately high drug use and lack of acceptance that non-marital sex is prevalent in society have allowed the AIDS epidemic to take hold in Pakistan, mainly among injection drug users, male/female sex workers and repatriated migrant workers. Lack of awareness about the symptoms and causes of this incurable, degenerative disease has led to the continuous increase in the number of patients over the years. The general perception of it being a sexually transmitted disease has made it a taboo to discuss among the masses. There is a need to take steps to educate the masses on the issue. The use of a needle syringe by more than one person or transfusion of blood from an infected person to another is the major cause of the transmission of HIV.

Hundreds of children are born with HIV every year. Basic education about the use of contraception, syringe needles, and safe practices for the transmission of blood from one person to another can help arrest the rising rates of HIV in the South Asian region. Media should also play a role in creating awareness among the masses regarding HIV/AIDS prevention.