India teams with UN to fight spread of HIV/AIDS among military personnel

India teams with UN to fight spread of HIV/AIDS among military personnel

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The Government of India and the United Nations agency fighting HIV/AIDS today launched a joint campaign to educate Indian military personnel about the deadly disease.

The agreement commits both parties to work together to reduce the impact of the disease, and with some 1.3 million active military personnel and more than 500,000 reserves, the scheme could benefit a large section of India’s population, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The agency said uniformed services were particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, mainly because of the young age of military personnel. Most are under 24 years old – the most sexually active age group. During peacetime, military personnel are up to five times more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – including HIV – than the civilian population. During conflict, this risk can skyrocket.

Under the partnership, UNAIDS will assist India’s Ministry of Defence, National Cadet Corps and the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) with designing and implementing a comprehensive prevention programme, which will include awareness-raising initiatives, peer education and training and the integration of HIV/AIDS-STI-related topics into the curricula at military schools throughout the country.

The initiative will also help enhance the capabilities of military health professionals to effectively manage and deliver high-quality care as well as support efforts to decrease stigma and discrimination surrounding military personnel living with HIV.

“I am pleased to see the Indian Government at the forefront of the battle against AIDS,” said Ulf Kristoffersson, Director of the UNAIDS Office on AIDS, Security and Humanitarian Response. “[India’s] commitment to confronting the epidemic at an early age, focusing on long-term prevention education for young men and women in uniform should stand as a lesson for militaries and governments in the region and elsewhere.”