DISEASES & HUMAN LIFE
HIV/AIDS has remained a taboo subject in the developing world. Unfortunately, it is also the most widespread and threatening cause of death.
Though considered taboo, HIV/AIDS remains one of the most threatening causes of death in South Asia today.
Human psyche generally dictates that people resist change. This is nowhere more evident than in conservative societies, especially in developing countries.
Around the globe, HIV and AIDS have affected more than sixty million people, out of which 90% belong to developing countries. The main proponents of this are sex-workers, drug users and ignorant decision makers. Decision-makers either treat the issue lightly or cannot accept that HIV/ AIDS exist in their society. Some societies discourage discussion and awareness due to false cultural and religious limitations especially in Islamic countries where it is believed that the one who follows the straight path of Islam can never succumb to this virus.
In South Asia, more than 3.5 million people are Hiv-positive. A large population (close to 2.5 million) resides in India while the rest are scattered mainly in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It is critical to eradicate the social challenges of people who get involved in activities that make them Hiv-positive patients. In such countries, more than 35% of the population lives below the poverty line and the literacy rate remains dismal. With few options, many succumb to prostitution and related professions.
In Islamic countries, people believe that the teachings of Islam provide a complete and ideal package to live a clean and transparent life. Statistics show that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is considerably very low in the regions where Islam dominates. This is due to mandatory practices and limitations provided within the framework of Islam that become a reference point for every practicing Muslim. Even then, Hiv-positive patients exist in Islamic societies. Here the challenge is not just to combat HIV/AIDS but increase awareness and trigger change to enable victims to understand the issue and address the virus. Close to 1 million Muslims in the world are victims of HIV/ AIDS and it is argued that these statistics are under-reported.
Another key challenge in these countries is the lack of fundamental women’s rights. Most male dominated societies tend to discourage female education. Lack of education translates into lack of confidence and many women are forced into sex or are unable to discuss Hiv/aids-related issues with their families. Such societies deem the subject taboo, thus severely hindering awareness. Similarly, sex workers cannot negotiate to take precautionary measures during sex with their clients.
Other major challenges include inadequate transfusion of blood and a high percentage of professional blood donors. According to a survey in Pakistan, around 20 percent of blood donors are professionals and most of them are drug addicts who donate their blood to buy drugs in return. Similarly, preused injections and irresponsible medical professionals pose a big challenge in these countries. Most difficult to fathom is the fact that medical professionals involved in such practices are aware of the risk involved and yet continue to practice it.
Another concern is the society’s treatment of HIV/AIDS victims who are increasingly abused or marginalized. Due to lack of awareness, many render it unwise and dangerous to interact with victims and eat, drink and befriend such people. Since we belong to a conservative society, we lack proper knowledge of the root cause of HIV/ AIDS. Our taboos emanate from religious beliefs and no religion has ever supported the prevalence of sex-workers. A few decades ago, such professions had no respect in the global society but today they have been legalized in numerous developed countries.
HIV/AIDS is like a monster and ignoring it does not eliminate it from our society. A critical need to create social consciousness on the issue seems to be the first public step. Similarly, leaders and decision-makers need to invest in awareness and precautionary programs about the disease if they want to save the next generation.