Tibetans, like everyone else, can contract HIV. Cases are still increasing. Our goal is ‘0’ new cases.
Every year on December 1st World AIDS Day, we remember those who died with HIV AIDS, their families and friends who miss them, and we unite in the struggle worldwide to fight against this deadly virus.
In our own Tibetan community in India, despite years of concerted efforts on awareness and education, HIV positive cases are seen to be a growing concern. While the surveillance health information system of the department of health covering selected settlements has recorded 13 HIV positive cases in 2012, the actual number of people who are HIV positive in our Tibetan community is believed to be much higher. Stigma, fear, discrimination and poor understanding of HIV are all factors that are associated with under-reporting and low uptake of testing for HIV. The understanding of the prevalence of HIV in our society remains a challenge.
World AIDS Day is a very important opportunity for you to learn the facts about HIV and to put your knowledge into action to prevent it. Understanding how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented and the facts about people living with HIV will help you to take care of your own health and others as well.
With the help of modern medicine and effective anti-retroviral therapy, it is possible for people who have HIV/AIDS to live long productive lives. We need to treat people living with HIV with respect and empathy. We should not discriminate against them and we need to stop stigmatization. You could have the virus! It is very important for everyone to know his or her HIV status by testing for HIV. Early diagnosis can enable timely treatment. Pregnant women who are HIV positive should talk to their doctors and be proactive about how to prevent the transmission of HIV to her baby with proper medical support.
It is claimed that more than 25 million people around the world have died of HIV AIDS virus during the last 30 years. Approximately 35 million people around the world including 2.1 million in India are living with HIV in 2012, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease continues to pose a public health threat to all communities and societies globally.
Even more concerning is the fact that HIV pandemic is still spreading the infection at a significant rate. There is an estimated 2.3 million new infections in 2012 globally. China is one of the leading countries in the number of HIV infection with around 780,000 people living with HIV in 2011. The first case of HIV AIDS in the so called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) was reported in 1994 and the first death by AIDS reported in 2001. Today over 300 HIV AIDS cases have been reported in TAR.
Numerous factors like Beijing government’s lackluster approach towards the HIV AIDS problem, poor healthcare infrastructure in Tibet, presence of large number of China’s HIV AIDS victims and a large flow of Chinese tourists in Tibet through the Gormo-Lhasa Railway since 2006 have put Tibet in a vulnerable position.
The department of health is dedicating the whole month of December as the month for HIV awareness and is launching a mobile awareness campaign whereby staff from both central office and settlement health centers are going to various places in India to spread awareness on HIV AIDS to college students, school children, settlement residents and Tibetan sweater sellers across India. We are determined to put every effort in preventing, treating and reducing the burden of HIV AIDS in our Tibetan community. The department has put great focus on this and will continue to do so in various abilities; promoting HIV AIDS awareness and education, promotion of condom use and its importance on HIV prevention, organizing workshops on HIV counseling, conducting free HIV testing for all pregnant women at our health centers and conducting support meetings for Tibetan people living with HIV AIDS. The department of health also provides support in the form of stipends for Tibetans with HIV for convenient and timely access to treatment on ART from local Indian governmental hospitals.
I would like to urge every Tibetans to focus and act on the theme of this World AIDS Day of “Getting to Zero”, echoing the global vision of “zero new HIV infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths”. Let us celebrate the global progress to date, remember the ones who have died and commit ourselves to create an AIDS-free Tibetan community and an AIDS free world.
I would like to thank the donors of our department of health namely PRM, NCA, SOIR IM for their financial and moral support which greatly motivates us to charge toward HIV AIDS reduction in the Tibetan community in India. We remain forever indebted and hope for their continuous support for many more years to come. The vision of an HIV AIDS free world is but universal.