Lucknow: "Oh! It's the first and you are back again!" Amit (name changed) says sarcastically. Amit is HIV positive and his sarcasm indicating his annoyance at journalists who turn up once a year to speak to him on World Aids Day.
In addition to fighting AIDS Amit had to face numerous societal ills as well. "when I learnt about my condition in 2001, I immediately started on the treatment, but in 2005 I needed to be admitted to hospital. I was treated like dogs. There were routinely no mattresses and a label would be stuck to bed."
The first AIDS case in India was registered in 1986. According to the UN AIDS report in 2016 there were 80,000 new cases of AIDS and 62,000 AIDS related deaths. According to the report there were 2100 lakh cases of AIDS out of which 49% were on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
As he speaks to us Amit gets emotional, his wife holds his hand trying to calm him down. His hurt evident he tells us, "even today if you were to go for a sample test, they don't touch the sample, they hand you a label and tell you to label your sample yourself. If this what happens in hospitals imagine what the rest of the world is like."
According to the National Aids Control Organization's (NACO) latest report, there has been a slight dip in the numbers of HIV positive people. However, NACO states in its own report that this is not reason enough for complacency as India has set the ambitious target of eradicating AIDS from the country by 2030.
Amit met his wife, Nilima (name changed) in King Georges Hospital where they were both undergoing treatment for AIDS. They were married at the hospital itself in a registered marriage. The hospital maintains a register where people can out here names down for a match, and when a suitable match appears the hospital arranged an arranged marriage for the patients. Dr. Reddy of King Georges tells us, "the last marriage we arranged was in 2017, all the marriages we have arranged have been successful so far."
Nilima's first husband divorced her when it was discovered that she had AIDS. "We have been married for 6 years now and are happy. We are there for each other even when no one else is." She tells us.
"In all these years we have never thought of having a child. We have never felt the need. Our own lives are uncertain but we have each other and that is enough. And why take the risk of destroying a new life?" Amit says.
In the year 2017, 22,675 pregnant women underwent Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) to prevent mother to child infection.
While the overall rate of infection is falling worldwide some communities and areas are still seeing rise in numbers. AIDS related deaths are also decreasing as treatments become more effective and available. According to the 2018 UNAIDS report, new cases of infection have seen a 47% decrease and AIDS related deaths a decrease of 51%.