India, the initial cases of AIDS were reported among
commercial sex workers in Mumbai and Chennai and injecting
drug users in the northeastern state of Manipur. Although
the HIV prevalence rate is low (0.8 per cent), the overall
number people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) is high and
is estimated to be 5.1 million. Young Indian women are
particularly at risk because of the tradition of early
marriage and powerlessness to ensure their male partner’s
monogamy or to negotiate the use of condoms.
The national response to addressing HIV/AIDS includes
providing prevention education for 90 percent of schools
and colleges, establishing voluntary testing and counselling
centres, reducing transmission through blood to less
than 1 per cent, scaling up prevention of mother-to-child
transmission activities, and providing free anti-retroviral
therapy to all people living with HIV and AIDS.
The convergence of different sectors and involvement
of civil society and NGOs has been recognised by the
Government as crucial for meeting the diverse needs
of adolescents and young people. Electronic and print
media have created general information, though there
is an opportunity for playing a more positive role
in eradicating stigma and discrimination against PLWHA,
and providing them with treatment and care.
Adolescence/ Population Education including HIV/AIDS
education has been supported by UNFPA through a partnership
with the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The
Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports will be a partner
to reach adolescents and young people through NGOs
and volunteers of the National Service Scheme (NSS)
and Nehru Yuva Kendras (NYKs).
Several strategies are being used to reach young
people. These include advocacy with policy makers
for creating an enabling environment for young people
to avail of services; capacity building of teachers,
facilitators and peer educators to provide information
and building life skills, integrating HIV prevention
into the curriculum and through co-curricular activities;
health awareness camps, counselling, telephone help
lines, community based adolescent centres, and networking
of NGOs working for adolescent skill building.
Telephone help lines have been established for counselling.
In the schools, the “Question Box” method
has been quite popular and teachers have been trained
to answer queries from students. Experts on RH are
sometimes invited to schools to answer students’ questions.
Integrating HIV/AIDS education in vocational training
and literacy programmes and using peer education strategy
have been successful in reaching out-of-school adolescents.
Adolescent Melas (fairs) in which adolescents
themselves actively participated in all stages have
created awareness while building communication skills
of the peer educators.