HIV awareness high among Indians

29 October, 2007

Women and men in India have a high level of awareness about the use of condoms in preventing the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

A recent survey conducted by the United Nations revealed that 95% of Indian males believe that condoms can prevent spread of disease and 70% of women know where to get them.

A report released after three years of awareness campaigns, jointly organised by UNAIDS and India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), found “dramatic results in key areas of reproductive health knowledge, awareness of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexual rights.”

The campaign – nicknamed ‘CHARCA’ – had focused on six high-prevalence districts in six different states of India – Aizawl, Bellary, Guntur, Kanpur, Udaipur, and Kishanganj.

The incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across the districts is down from 55% to 17%. Only 5% of women in Guntur, 6% of women in Kanpur, and 8% of women in Kishanganj were willing to accept husbands with extra-marital relations.

The joint study by the UNAIDS and the National AIDS Control Organization also found that the percentage of young women who know where to get male condoms has increased.

Across all districts, the belief that condoms protect against HIV/AIDS has increased from 65% to 95% among all men, the report said.

Awareness of single-partner sex as a preventive measure against sexually transmitted infections increased to 76% across the six districts.

However, the survey also threw up a seamy side – there has been an increase in sexual violence on women in the form of forced sex.

Of those surveyed, 43% of women in Kanpur, followed by 17% of women in Kishanganj, and 8% of women in Aizawl said they were forced to have sex with their partners.

Dennis Broun, country coordinator of UNAIDS, observes, “This is just the first step as we need to do a lot in terms of working consistently.”

Though the survey showed that there is a reduced vulnerability of young women between the age group of 13 to 24 from HIV infection, there is a huge gap between the perception and the behavior of women, Dennis Broun said.

If empowerment of women has to be reached, perhaps this knowledge needs to be translated into a consistent behavioral pattern, the report of the
study by the UNAIDS-National AIDS Control Organisation stressed.





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