Why, after all

Today is the World AIDS Day, and like previous years, it’s being observed the world over with a host of programmes. In Nepal, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme have joined hands to raise awareness by mobilising locals and Bhutanese refugees in eastern parts, including the services of a counselling and testing unit. Campaigns against social evils often end with once-a-year celebrations, restricted to select groups or areas. HIV/AIDS is no more confined to the high-risk groups alone. Frequent travellers, migrant population and employees of transport companies are equally susceptible, raising the risk of the spread of the infection among unsuspecting housewives.

Statistics of HIV/AIDS sufferers vary, and the most generous estimate puts the figure at about one lakh with 3,000 cases surfacing annually. Only some 5,500 people have had the courage to disclose their HIV status; the majority concealing the infection because of shame or fear. That the number of victims is rising indicates serious flaws in the country’s fight against AIDS. Prevention is far better but it’s not easy and even costly beyond the reach of ordinary Nepalis. But care and counselling should be offered to those down with the virus. Such observance will have no meaning if the effectiveness of anti-AIDS programmes is not tested and agencies don’t come up with a serious review to determine why, despite high expenditure, the dreaded disease is victimising more and more people. This should, it goes without saying, be followed up by determined corrective actions.