Epidemic of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/ AIDS) in India has emerged as one of the most serious public health problems in the country. The initial cases were reported among commercial sex workers in Mumbai and Chennai and injecting drug users in the north-eastern State of Manipur. The infection has since then spread rapidly in almost every district of the country. However, the overall prevalence in the country is still, very low, a rate much lower (0.75%) than many other countries in the Asia region like Cambodia (2.77%), Myanmar (1.99%), Thailand (1.85%).

In the recent years is has spread from urban to rural areas and from individuals practicing risk behaviour to the general population. Studies indicate that more and more women attending ante-natal clinics are testing HIV-positive thereby increasing the risk of prenatal transmission. About 85 percent of the infections occur from the sexual route (both heterosexual and homosexual), about 4 percent through blood transfusion and another 8 % through injecting drug use. About 89% of the reported cases are occurring in sexually active and economically productive age of 18-49 years. One in every 4 cases of AIDS reported is the women.

Such rapid spread of the epidemic across the country today is due to labour migration and mobility in search of employment from economically backward to more advanced regions, low literacy levels leading to low awareness among the potential high risk groups, gender disparity, sexually transmitted infections and reproductive tract infections both among men and women beside the social stigma attached to it. Although transmission of HIV through use of needles, razors and other cutting instruments in beauty parlors, hair cutting saloons and dental clinics is insignificant, lack of hygienic practices in majority of these establishments also poses a health risk to the unsuspecting general population who visit these places every day.


Discrimination against People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) denies them access to treatment, services and support and hinders effective responses. There have been cases of refusal of treatment and other services to AIDS patients in hospitals and nursing homes both in Government and private sectors. This has compounded the misery of the AIDS patients. In the workplace there are cases of discrimination leading, on some occasions, to loss of employment.


The treatment options are still in the initial trial stage and are prohibitively expensive. There are fears of patients developing drug resistance and side effects if the therapy is not administered under proper medical supervision. There are instances of quacks taking advantage of the situation and promising cures and defrauding unsuspecting people who are infected with the virus of large sums of money. There is no vaccine.