The four dreaded words...

The year was 1985 and MBBS students at Mumbai’s prestigious Lokmanya Tilak Municipaal Medical College (LTMMC) and its General Hospital (LTMGH) at Sion got a startling news. An unconscious foreign national found at Juhu beach was admitted few days ago by the police who found him. Thanks to prompt treatment he was revived and sat up to tell the tale: I am HIV positive! Those four words sent a shiver down the spine of the junior resident doctor (then called RMO) who immediately reported the matter to superiors. AIDS had finally arrived in India!

A nation which believed that there is no sexual experimentation among its citizens and that premarital or extramarital sex happens only in western nations, was finally made to sit up and take notice. For a 23 year old budding doctor like me it was a revelation! I used to be a vocal critic until when the public education display few seconds before Doordarshan news used to show: “AIDS se bachiye.” I have got an article published in Indian Express those days where I wrote that instead of an alien disease like AIDS we should worry about Diarrhea and TB awareness.

Rest as they say, is history.

As of 2017, India had 2.1 million AIDS cases and there was a prevalence rate of 0.2% that means for every 1000 people in India, 2 has AIDS and the maximum number of cases were in the Northeastern states.

The good news is that medical science has come a long way and we are able to keep the patients healthy even though the virus continues to live in their body. Mothers diagnosed at young age have survived for 2 decades to allow their young children grow up and take care of them. I personally have over a dozen patients of AIDS who are quietly going to factories, offices etc and living a useful life. The medications have not only prevented death but given them a good lease of life and we doctors are happy to see this happening.

I am sure like AIDS, mankind will emerge victorious even in the Covid-19 pandemic.

(To be continued)