World AIDS Day 2018 is being observed on December 1. With global partners and citizens, this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) is celebrating AIDS Day under the theme ‘Know Your Status‘. The pioneering global health campaign, first initiated by WHO in 1988, is dedicated to spread awareness about the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which is spread by infection from a virus called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
It is said that the risk of acquiring HIV rises multi-fold if one shares contaminated needles, syringes, has unprotected anal or vaginal sex, has blood transfusion, and procedure that involve unsterile cutting or piercing. In 2017, a record number of 21.7 million people were receiving HIV treatment.
There are only a few way through which a person can get HIV, but it seems like there are lot of stories circulating on internet which add to the many myths and misconceptions about HIV. Some of these stories are old and misinformed.
Out of the most common story on the HIV rumour mill is the ‘virgin cleansing’ myth. It is related to a belief that a virgin girl can cure men of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. However, the most worrying part is that it puts the men at greater risk of getting infected rather than curing them.
Apart from Africa, this trend has also been witnessed in Kolkata’s Sonagachi, considered to be Asia’s largest red light area. As per media reports, a rising number of men look for having sex with virgins. And it is not only men, many girls and young woman are also put at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
It is believed that the practice of “virgin cleansing” rose because of mystical beliefs, lack of education, and social and economic depression.
As per govt data, over 400 women and children go missing every day in India and according to another estimate, there are 3–9 million victims of sex trafficking nationwide. Another report suggests that India has the largest number of HIV-infected people (aged 0-19 years) living in South Asia.
It is also believed that the HIV virus largely affects people from lower socioeconomic background where access to medical services is an issue.