Chennai: It was the state that gave India its first HIV/AIDS case in 1986. But today Tamil Nadu has come a long way. About 16 lakh people have tested themselves for AIDS in the state this year.
“I heard that they are checking for HIV here, so I decided to check my status,” says a resident, Santhanam.
In another part of the state, 31-year-old Rajeshwari is one of the 50 odd HIV positive widows who are now covered under the government pension scheme of Rs 400 per month.
“We got to know of the problems that the HIV people are facing so we decided to give them the government pension scheme by relaxing the age,” says collector, Cuddalore, Rajendra Ratnoo.
Its perhaps initiatives like these that are now reflecting in the Tamil Nadu AIDS statistics.
According to the data with the Tamil Nadu Aids Control Society (TANSAC), the percentage of people has come down from an estimated 1.13 per cent in 2001 to 0.38 per cent in 2006, roughly a decline from around five lakh people to around 1.7 lakh people now.
“The vibrant health system in Tamil Nadu, the cooperation of the political as well the administration which has been very good, and the awareness among the high risk groups,” says Project Director, TANSAC, Supriya Sahu.
The state saw the first case of AIDS and also saw massive ad campaigns in the beginning of the 21st century that created an impact in every section of the society.
From Pulliraja to these mobile testing vans, Tamil Nadu has come a long way in decreasing its number of HIV positive people. However, the question is - is that enough?
“To tackle the problem, a good medical infrastructure is required, and India doesn’t have that, and access to medical care. Do people in smaller areas have access to treatment like ART?’ questions Associate Director, Global Aids Program, Micheal S Friedman.
Tamil Nadu is now slowly emerging as a role model in the combat against AIDS in India. But the road for the state is perhaps as difficult as the journey so far.