Well. That's when the first cases were detected.
Have we ever really woken up?
We are now a quarter of a century down the road. We are glad that our HIV prevalence rate (0.31% of adult population) is lower than that of the US. At least according to official estimates by our National AIDS Control Organisation.
The government has - perhaps gleefully - announced that the rates of new HIV infections have decreased by 50% over the past decade.
Good. But there are still new people getting infected. And we still have a lot of people who have been infected and still don't even know their true status. And the overall quality of the data - and availability remains abysmal. How we wish we could have a summary like the CDC puts out for HIV in the US.
"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" someone said. Quite.
That we are a quarter century into HIV in India and still do not have the most basic understanding of the disease is sad. Especially when it is a reporter for a national newspaper.
Yesterday a prominent Mumbai paper put out a howler of an article whose headline breathlessly announces that "Aids cases fall by 88.64% in Mumbai." Just seeing someone quote a double decimal point shows that here is a person who does not understand statistics. No govt. figures are going to be accurate even for a single decimal point - let alone the false sense of precision that a double one gives.
The article goes on to claim that "percentage of HIV positive cases fell from 10.56 of the Aids cases reported in 2007 to 5.84% till October in 2011" This is pure gibberish. Every person with AIDS is HIV positive. The reporter seems to have gotten even the most basic distinction of what HIV is and what AIDS is on its head.
If this were only true. Only 15 deaths. My word - wouldn't that be just great! We could shut down Jeevan Sahara and do something else. Maybe start helping people not fall while taking showers. I am sure that more than 15 people in Mumbai have died while slipping in the bathroom this month - let alone this year.
Sadly it isn't. We know.
We have seen friends with HIV who were alive as of 1.1.2011 - and who are not as of 29.11.2011. I will use some of their real names just to prove it. I am using their first names because they are so common. They could be anyone - but these were real flesh-and-blood people: Irfan. Pushpa. Deepali. Sonali. Anant. Sudhakar. Villas. And the list goes on. These are people we have touched. We have loved. And who today are dead. Dead because of a virus called HIV that knocks out our beautiful God-given immune system.
Off the top of my head I have just named half of the people who supposedly - according to the govt. stats - have died in Mumbai this year of AIDS.
And so we lurch towards another Dec. 1st. Its World AIDS Day and we will continue to do what we have been doing for this past decade. Loving people with HIV. Telling others about it. Praying. Caring and sharing. Whatever the so-called statistics tell us - we know from our experience on the ground - that there is still so much to be done.
We will see an AIDS-free generation someday - but its not just round the corner. In the mean time we have our hands on the plow. And our hearts talking to God.