Madhya Pradesh, a central Indian state is categorized as highly vulnerable category on the HIV status in India. Though it was considered as low prevalence zone but as per the listing last year by National Aids Control Organization it is now considered as ‘highly vulnerable’. Madhya Pradesh State AIDS Control Society along with many non governmental organizations have and is undertaking many activities to help engage communities including young people and is putting in efforts to increase awareness on the issue but challenge here is daunting. State not only has very low density of population and 70 % of its population lives in rural area, with low literacy levels especially among women. The latest National family Health Survey data clearly advocates the same and is an urgent call for accentuating efforts in this direction. The data presents the figure that only 45 % of women in the category of ‘ever married adults between 15- 49 years had ever heard of ‘HIV/AIDS’ in the state. Importantly this data is about whether they have heard or not heard about the issue, not beyond, while it is the right information which matters here, which can help empower communities to protect themselves from the dreaded virus.
Analyzing the data further on urban / rural divide reveals that 74 % of women in the urban areas of Madhya Pradesh had heard about ‘HIV/AIDS’ while the figures for rural areas is 35 % of women. This is clear indicatio that in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh 65 % of women have never heard of HIV/AIDS. Awareness among men is much better at 95 % in urban areas and 59 % in rural areas. But even these figures tell us that it is rural areas where we need to focus more on our communication efforts.
Experts say that women are more vulnerable to HIV /AIDS as compared to men, the area where efforts need to be targeted. This with range of factors like poverty, lack of information and decision power and gender discrimination makes them more vulnerable. The area where the state should concentrate to increase awareness on prevention of HIV/AIDS would be to focus on the rural areas including women and provide information which is easy to understand in a language and manner which is possible to assimilate.
Contributed by Anil