JSK World AIDS Day Outreach at the Thane Railroad Station

December 12, 2013


Saturday the 30th of November was a ‘red letter day’ for the Jeevan Sahara Kendra (JSK) – no, make that a ‘red-ribbon day.’   In solidarity with the 35 million people world-wide who are living with HIV, and in remembrance of the 36 million estimated to have died so far to AIDS, and in the hope that no more new infections will take place, the Jeevan Sahara Kendra decided to mark this year’s World AIDS Day with a public outreach to help the general population in Thane stop the spread of HIV.

The Jeevan Sahara Kendra has been working in Thane for 11 years now – helping people with HIV and their families get personalized HIV care in their homes through a combination of personal and family counseling as well as monitoring and supervising ART and other life-saving medications.   This work is further strengthened by an integrated counseling and testing centre (ICTC) which we run in collaboration with the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), an outpatient clinic and in-patient care that is provided at the JSK Community Care Centre in the Lok Hospital Building.   While most of our work is in caring for people who already have the disease, JSK makes is a point to periodically reach out to the broader population to help prevent the further spread of this disease.


The Thane railway station is the life-line of the city, with an estimated 6.5 lakh passengers passing through every day.  We decided to make this the focus of our prevention work for our World AIDS Day 2013 intervention on Saturday 30th of November.

HIV Information Table


Having received the necessary permissions from the railway and police authorities, our team set up an information booth at the railway station near platform no. 1 and 2.   An informative poster exhibit was put up – including ones made by our adolescent groups which include HIV positive young people and children of people who have HIV.

Free literature about HIV in various languages was also available – for which we want to especially thank OM books and bro George Verwer for their generous provision of this.   Throughout the day interested people came to the table to pick up literature and to talk with our staff and volunteers about HIV/AIDS.  A number of impromptu counseling sessions were held – and a number of people were referred to the testing and counseling camp being held simultaneously at the auto / taxi stand area.

All through the day our staff and volunteers gave out literature, pinned the red ribbon on members of the public to signify a commitment to ending AIDS, and talked about how it is possible to live a life free of HIV.

???????????????????????????????By the end of the day the JSK information booth had distributed a staggering 5058 copies of the booklet “Ten Great Reasons not to have Sex before Marriage” to the public.  The bulk of the copies were in Marathi (2500), Hindi (1460) and English (1000) with a small number in Malayalam, Telegu and Tamil (total 98) given out as well.  In addition the team distributed 350 packets of information from MSACS, as well as 450 copies of “HIV and Life Positive” in Hindi as well as a number of other miscellaneous HIV related literatures.

Free HIV Testing Camp

While all of this was going on, the other part of the JSK team was conducting a free HIV Counselling and Testing Camp in collaboration with Rashtravadi Rickshaw-Taxi Chalak Malak Mahasangh.  We had put up a shamiana the day before so that the counselling and blood collection would take place in full confidentiality.

Our JSK staff and volunteers took the “Ten Great Reasons not to have Sex before Marriage” booklets and red ribbons and gave them to all the auto-rickshaw drivers as they came to pick up their passengers.  Others talked with taxi drivers and autorickshaw drivers and encouraged them to get tested.


The results were spectacular.  All through the day a steady stream of people came for HIV counseling and testing.  Our staff and volunteers registered each person before the counseling session and then helped guide them to the appropriate rooms.  After they had received pre-testing counseling, and had their blood sample taken, the JSK team and volunteers then gave them a small snack and continued sharing information about HIV and how to prevent its spread with the participants.

???????????????????????????????Over the period of the day, our counselors gave HIV pre-test counseling to 139 people.  Of these, 131 (including 4 women) agreed for voluntary testing and gave their blood samples for the HIV test.

The overwhelming majority of the participants were auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers – with about 10% of the participants being members of the general public who had been met at the JSK information table and also came to be tested for HIV.

One man – who was due to travel later that day to Rajesthan – postponed his trip to be able to come and find out his test result (which we were able to tell him the next day was HIV negative!).

Significantly, most of the people who were counseled had or where engaged in risky sexual behavior.  The camp offered them an opportunity to come face to face with the possible consequences of their actions.  At least 4 of the participants told the counselors that they had been engaged in homosexual encounters.

???????????????????????????????After the counseling and blood collection was over, we took the samples back to the JSK centre to be processed.  We were so happy to find that not one of the 131 samples were positive for HIV!  This means that though most of our friends have been exposed sexually at some time or the other, they have been spared the life-challenging consequences of actually being infected with the disease.   Our counselors met with those tested on the next two days to give the HIV test results – and have the pleasure of telling each one that they are ‘HIV negative’ – but that they need to thank God for that and change their behavior if they would like to stay negative.

Our staff and volunteers managed to distribute another 1700 copies of “Ten Great Reasons not to have Sex before Marriage”  in Marathi (1000), Hindi (500) and English (200) over the course of the day to different autorickshaw and taxi drivers, as well as putting red ribbons on them.

All in all it was a memorable day for the Jeevan Sahara Kendra, and we are grateful for all our staff and volunteers who put in so much work to get the job done.   We know that the literature that went out will help change lives into the coming days – and that each person tested will have a new understanding of his or her own behaviours.  We are grateful to the leaders of the to the Rashtravadi Rickshaw-Taxi Chalak Malak Mahasangh as well as the Thane Railway Station and Police authorities for cooperating with us to make this World AIDS Day 2013 outreach a grand success.  


Welcome to our ‘new’ In-Patient Centre!

June 14, 2013

Hello dear Friends!

We are happy to announce that the renovations of the Jeevan Sahara Kendra Community Care Centre have been successful and we now have a 10-bedded in-patient unit operational!

With these facilities, we are now able to give 24 hour care to people living with HIV/ AIDS who are sick and need secondary hospital care to get better.

Will you join us for a small tour of the new facilities?

We will ask our dear sister Kavita to cut the ribbon and open the door for us!ribbon cutting

Thank you Kavita!  Now we can enter…

As you come into the hall, you first see the nursing station at the end.

new corridor and nursing station

This is where our nurses are on duty – 24 hours a day – to make sure that people with HIV who are admitted at the Jeevan Sahara Kendra for treatment get better!

As we take the first door on the right we see this:

new consulting room

This is the Doctor’s consulting room, where Dr. Sheba Eicher and other experienced and caring doctors do the initial examination and diagnosis for our patients.

We are privileged to have Dr. Sheba as our Medical Director – besides her specialisation in Family Medicine has also done her Fellowship in HIV medicine from CMC Vellore and has over a decade of experience in treating people with HIV/AIDS.

The next doors open to our three wards – one for women, one for men and one for people with active tuberculosis.

new female ward

Here is the women’s ward.  We have 4 beds available for women in this ward.

In the men’s ward we have another 4 beds for men and a further 3 beds available for people with active TB in a separate ward.

At Jeevan Sahara Kendra, we have a decade of experience in loving and caring for people with HIV.   We know these new rooms are not just a beautiful facility, with windows overlooking trees even though we are in the middle of a city.  We know that they are places of healing and care – where our experienced and loving medical and nursing staff are giving hope to many who have only experienced rejection till now.

Our Jeevan Sahara Kendra Community Care Centre is designed to give short-term hospital stay (generally up to 2 weeks) to immuno-compromised patients.  We are not an ‘ashram’, but rather a ‘treatment centre’ where our team works with the patient and their family to do everything possible to address their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

For People Living with HIV/AIDS from Thane city, we are able to follow up afterwards with home-based care.  For patients coming from other parts, we work to link them up to local caring HIV centres in their home area.

So please do not hesitate to contact us.  You can call at 022-25899248  or our mobile at 9321112065.

We are here for you!  Our head nurse sister Agnes and the whole team is waiting to serve you and your family!

new nursing station

Take your meds!

August 8, 2012

Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) medicines are the life-line to living with HIV! 

At the recent International Conference on HIV in Washington DC (USA) it was said that a person with HIV in Uganda who is 35 years old now – and has a CD4 count of higher than 100  –  and starts on ART and takes it faithfully is now expected to live for more than 35 years!

That means that taking ART regularly can allow you to live just as long as you would expect to live if you did not have HIV.  This is great news!  And we are not talking about living in the ‘advanced western countries’ – the Uganda estimate is for a country with a health system and standard-of-life situation similar to what we have in India! 

But did you notice that in the second paragraph we highlighted 4 words: and takes it faithfully!  If I have HIV and I do not take the medicine very, very, very regularly…. well, then it just won’t work!  

This is what we call ‘Adherence’.

What does ‘adherence’ mean? 

It means being able to take the medicines you have been prescribed completely!

All the drugs – at the right dosages – at the right time – and in the right way!

No missing doses!

If I have HIV and I take my meds properly – then the amazing immune system God has given me can be rebuilt.   My body can fight off all the other diseases that are trying to bring me down.

But if I do not take the medicines properly – well – then the medicines will stop working.   Period.

There are other sicknesses like diabetes – where if I miss some meds then I can compensate by increasing my doses later.  HIV does not work that way.  If I miss my meds – then I am giving the virus a free ride to become resistant to the meds. 

Take a look at these pictures.  They illustrate what happens in the body of a person with HIV who is taking their ART meds twice a day.

If the person taking ART is regular – taking their medicines at the same time each day and not missing a dose, then this is what takes place:


After a person takes their morning dose at 8 AM, the level of the drugs in the blood increases till about 2 PM, after which they start to drop.  But they never go down to ‘zero’ because at 8 PM, the next dose is taken and the level of drugs increases again.  The pattern is repeated the next day.

The most important aspect is this – by regular taking of ART at the right time each day, the level of drugs in the blood never drops below the ‘Threshold of Viral suppression’ (shown in the picture in yellow).  This means there is always enough drug available to suppress the HIV.  You suppress the HIV – and it can’t reproduce!

That is why good adherence to ART medication should result in the person with HIV having no detectable HIV in their blood!  

That’s great news!  It means that the bodies CD4 cells are then able to replenish themselves – and the overall immune function can improve – leading to a restored immune system!  And we are seeing this happening over and over again.  People on ART who are taking their meds properly – are getting so, so much better.  Are able to work again.  Are living to see their children getting married!  Amazing stuff!

But all of this depends on taking the medicines in the right way – faithfully!

Here is what happens if the ART meds are not taken regularly.

In this case, the person took a dose at around noon – and then the next dose the next day at about 5 AM.


As you see in the picture above, from 8 AM to noon there are no ART drugs circulating in the person’s blood at all – because they have not taken their meds. Even when around noon they take their dose of ART – it still takes about an hour for it to come to a level where it will suppress the HIV virus.  

So from about 2 PM the ART is now able to suppress the HIV virus – the levels increase till about 6 PM, when they start decreasing again.  Around 12 AM the levels of ART dip below the minimum threshold needed to suppress HIV.  From now on the HIV can multiply again.  And the next dose is only taken at 5 AM, which means another hour or two before the minimum threshold is reached.

So what does the HIV do in a person on ART who is not taking his or her meds regularly?  It does this:

As you can see – whenever there are no ART drugs circulating in the blood – the HIV is reproducing.    More HIV means more attacks on the CD4 cells.

And even more importantly – when the ART drug is present in sub-optimal levels – the HIV that is reproducing at that time can become drug resistant.

This is why some people who are being treated on ART experience drug failure.  They have opened up doors for the virus to keep reproducing even though they are taking ART meds.   Sadly – some of them allow their HIV to become resistant to the ART meds.

The shocking thing is this – even people who think that they are taking their meds regularly may be opening up the gates for HIV to reproduce.

Take a look at this chart.

What you see is the percentage of people with ‘undetectable viral loads’ (which is what good ART should achieve – as against how regularly they take their ART meds:

If you see the first column you can see that 80% of people who are taking their ART over 95% of the time – achieve an ‘undetectable viral load.’

But here is the shocker – even people who are 90-95% adherent – only half of them achieve an ‘undetectable viral load.’

And for people who are less regular … well the figures show that most of them won’t reach the goal of suppressing their HIV.

So what does this mean?

My dear friend – if you are reading this and you have HIV – please do take your ART faithfully!

It is such a gift to be able to have these meds!  They can take you well into old age.  You can become old – just like all your friends and relatives who do not have HIV expect to get old.  But they will only work if you take them very, very, very regularly.

You have to achieve an adherence rate of over 95%.  That means that if you are taking your meds morning and evening – you have to miss less than 3 doses in 3 months!

Remember – the key to your long life is in your hands.  Those ART tablets are a gift from God.  Take them.  Regularly.  We want to see you live.  And we all want to see you live long and healthily!


If you are reading this and you have a friend or relative who is HIV positive – please do encourage them to take their meds.  It is often a challenge to take the meds regularly.  No one likes to take pills – and that too life-long!  But if your loved-one does take their meds – and takes them regularly – then they can have a long life!

Your part in encouraging and helping out your loved one is vital.  

Be there for them.  Keep positively talking about the need to take the meds.  Pray with them.  Find out when their next ART appointment is.  Offer to go along with them to the doctor.  Tell them how valuable they are.   Show them you care by being with them through the thick and the thin of things!


We all need each other.  ART meds are a great gift from God – but are not always easy to take.   But once we start on them, we have got to keep taking them.  If we take them regularly… then we can live looooooong!

Don’t stop!  Keep taking your meds!  And make sure you take your meds faithfully! 

We want to see you old!


Note:  Much of this post was taken from “Adherence and ART” the excellent powerpoint presentation put together by the Harvard Medical School HIV Initiative in Vietnam.  This can be downloaded by clicking: here


December 15, 2011


Getting the word out – getting to Zero!

December 5, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011 has an electric slogan – getting to zero!

We want to see a world in 2015 where there are:

– Zero new HIV infections

– Zero discrimination

– Zero AIDS-related deaths

Is this even possible?

We believe it is.

If we work hard and pray hard – God can help us do what seems beyond possible!

Here are a few snap-shots of what Jeevan Sahara Kendra did over the World AIDS Day week – and the Mumbai AIDS Sunday activities that the CORINTH network help run all over Mumbai.


World AIDS Day – AIDS Rally – Airoli

Daniel Kautikkar – senior JSK staff member – participates with members of local prayer groups who have come together to tell others about HIV and what can be done.


World AIDS Day – Street plays performed by volunteers and JSK staff in different parts of Thane.

JSK volunteers and staff practice before hitting the streets of Thane – plays were performed at 11 locations in Thane.


World AIDS Day – Pray to End AIDS meeting at St. Pius X high-school, Mulund

A deeply moving time.  People from different churches and prayer groups gathered together to hear about what they can do to love people with HIV.  Stirring songs set the stage. People who were living with HIV courageously told stories of hope.  There were many tears.  After hearing a message from the Bible about what God wants of us – all present prayed specific prayers to see the end of AIDS.  And for us to be the answer to these prayers!


CORINTH AIDS Mela – at Warner Memorial Methodist Church, Kurla

The CORINTH AIDS Mela brought together 10 different organisations who are doing compassionate and consistent HIV care and prevention work in the greater Mumbai area.

The event was an eye-opener to the depth of the response that the different NGO members CORINTH network are involved in.

The public was able to see films about HIV, get literature on HIV, take part in a poster contest, purchase handicrafts made by HIV positive people, play educational games and finally be challenged by a stirring evening meeting in the church.

Moses Kasbe of JSK helps mela participants play an educational game that teaches about the need for HIV testing.


Sandhya, Peter and Agnes from the JSK staff team share some of the HIV resources that JSK has with Mr. Pradip and Major Cornelius of the Salvation Army’s CARE programme.

So there we have it.  Jeevan Sahara’s contribution over the World AIDS Day 2011 week toward seeing us Getting to Zero.  The Bible says that nothing is too difficult for God!

My loved one has HIV/AIDS… now what?

February 2, 2011

Nine ways that God can use you to help your loved one in the challenge of living with HIV!

You just found out that someone you love has HIV.  It may be your brother or your sister.  It may be a close friend or a business colleague.  It may be anyone – but you have found out and you are shocked.

What can I do now?  What should I do?  Isn’t AIDS an incurable disease?  How could it happen to us?  What will people think?

These and many other questions may be going through your mind at this point.

This little write-up is meant to help you make good choices.  It does not have all the answers to every question.  But since we have worked with many people who are living with HIV – and their family members who are helping them – this write-up does give some practical advice to some of the main questions that you will have.

Please feel free to ask further questions.  You will find contact addresses on the side of this web page and at the end of this post.

So…  My loved one has HIV/AIDS – now what?

1. Your loved one is afraid.

Remember – he or she is the one with the disease.  The immediate relatives (if they know already) may be even more fearful.

You can make a difference by telling your loved one you still love them.  Don’t accuse.  Don’t judge.  We have all made mistakes.  Now is the time to accept with all your heart.  Give courage – not more fear!

Having HIV is not the end!  There is so much hope!

2. Get a confirmatory HIV report

One report – esp. from a private lab – is not enough to tell whether a person has HIV.  Make sure your loved one gets a proper HIV anti-body test.  We suggest having it done at any of the Government Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers (ICTCs) which are at each Municipal Hospitals.

Some ICTCs are also found with govt. recognized NGOs such as Jeevan Sahara Kendra and Salvation Army.

3. Start Treatment!

HIV is a disease which has lots of treatments available!  But you must help your loved one get the right kind of HIV treatment. Don’t go to people who say “take this and I will cure you.”

If you are living in the greater Mumbai area the correct HIV Treatment is straight forward (if you are living in other parts of India the same general principles will hold true):

  • Register at the nearest Government Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Centre – investigations and medicines are free.   The Greater Mumbai Area has ART centres at JJ Hospital, KEM Hospital, Nair Hospital, Godrej Hospital, L+T Health Centre Andheri, Thane Civil Hospital,Central Hospital Ulhasnagar, and NMMC Hospital Vashi,

  • Have a free blood test done to check your loved one’s immunity.  This is called an absolute CD4 Count – and should be done initially and then repeated every 6 months.
  • Check for other diseases such as Tuberculosis.  If your loved one has TB, then get free TB treatment from your nearest Govt. DOTS center.
  • These treatments will really help your loved one.  Tuberculosis treatment needs to be taken for 1 year and ART (Anti-retroviral treatment) is taken life-long.  You can encourage your loved one to take the medicine and make sure they take every dose of the medicine!
  • Your prayers and love and support help the medicines work!  Keep encouraging your loved one to keep their treatments!

4. Encourage disclosure

HIV is too big a disease to be dealt with alone.  Help your loved one share about their HIV status to close family members. Every person living with HIV needs a strong support system.  This can only happen when we tell others about our condition.

It is not easy to tell others that you are HIV positive.  Offer to be there with your loved one – if they want – when they share their HIV status to others.  Work with the others to help them understand that they are not at risk themselves from daily contact and caring for a person with HIV.

5. Test other family members

If your loved one is married – it is important to test their spouse for HIV.  If the mother is found to be infected with HIV – then it is good to test the children as well.

Testing other family members for HIV can be very hard – there may be many feelings of guilt and fear.  But you can help your loved one overcome these feelings by your encouragement and prayers.

Your loved one may not want to test immediately, especially if they have just found out about their own HIV positivity.  But do not wait too long.  If the family members are HIV negative – then that can be a huge burden lifted off your loved one’s shoulders.  If any are HIV positive – then we can start their own treatment sooner rather than waiting for the disease to do damage to them!

6. Support financially.

Nothing is free.  Nothing is cheap.  Your loved one will need some kind of financial help.  You may not be able to help in every area, but every little bit is useful.  Gently find out what your loved one’s needs are – and what their family’s needs are.  Once you have found out – act! Don’t wait to help them out.  God loves a cheerful giver!

7. Listen.

Listen to your loved one’s fears and worries and help them to overcome them.  Don’t give up – and don’t let your loved one give up!  Keep communicating.  Send SMSs.  Call up. Visit.  Spend time.  Listen more than you talk.  Allow your loved ones to express themselves.  If they need to cry – let them.  Give them a safe space in which they can share their deepest sorrows.

8. Keep confidentiality

Let your loved one know that you are not going to share what they tell you with anyone.  Keep to your word.  While you want your loved one to tell others about their HIV status – that is their job – not yours!  You must be totally trustworthy in keeping your loved one’s confidence.

9. Encourage your loved one to trust and depend on the Living God.

Living with HIV is not easy at all.  There are so many challenges. Every day.  None of us have enough time and energy to be the solution to the problems of others – especially those with HIV.

Here is where you can help your loved one to move forward and live positively – help them to trust and depend on the Living God.  We know that Jesus Christ cares for each one of us – especially those who are living with HIV/AIDS.

Help your loved one with HIV trust more in God Himself.  Encourage them to read God’s word the Bible and to pray.  Take your loved one with you to a prayer group or Sunday service if they do not do so already.

Having HIV is not the end – it is only the beginning of a new and often challenging phase of their life.

Thanks for being willing and ready to help your loved one with HIV.  We hope that this small write-up has helped you with some of the basic steps can be used by God to bless our loved ones who are living with this challenging condition.


For further information, you can contact Jeevan Sahara Kendra at 9321112065  or send us an email at jsk@vsnl.net

Finding out whether you have HIV or not

November 25, 2010

There are a lot of important decisions to make in life.

One of them is finding out your own HIV status.  Are you infected with the HIV virus or not?

There is only one way to know – get the test done.  Which test?  The HIV-antibody test where a small amount of blood is taken and checked to see whether it contains HIV-antibodies.

If the test is ‘reactive’ to HIV-antibodies, it means that the body has recognised HIV in its blood.  If the blood sample came from me – it would mean that I am HIV positive.

Why should I know about my status?

Here are three key reasons:

1.  For my body’s sake.

If I am HIV positive – then the sooner I know about it – the sooner I can take the appropriate treatment.   Quick detection and prompt treatment means a far longer life.  Avoiding treatment doesn’t help – infact it harms.  The later I start treatment – the more damage the virus has done to me.   Remember that we must never give up hope!

Getting the right treatment for HIV makes all the difference.  A study in the US says that the average life expectancy – after finding out about HIV – is now 24 years!  And who knows how much longer I can live if new sets of medicines come on the scene in the coming years!  But all of this is useless unless I find out whether I have HIV or not – and then go to trusted people for treatment.

Do you need to know where to get treatment? We can help you at Jeevan Sahara Kendra.  If you are living in Thane we can directly provide treatment for you.  If you live outside – we will be able to guide you to a local provider who can help you move forward!  Come and visit us with all your medical papers!

2.  To protect others.

If I am HIV positive – then I want to protect those I love.  I will want to make sure that anyone I have had sexual contact with will be tested for the disease too.  I will also want to make sure that I do not infect anyone else.  Its bad enought that I have it – why should I spread it further.

If I am negative – wow! what a relief!  But it does mean that I will have to be very careful now to make sure that I do not get exposed to HIV again.  Best bet by far – being sexually faithful to my mutually faithful spouse!  Anything before marriage and any sex outside marriage is just too risky!  A negative report is a real gift – I won’t want to waste it!

There is a small chance that if I am negative now but have had a sexual exposure to a person who has HIV in the last 3 months before the test – that I may actually have the disease.  The chances of this are very small – but to make sure I really do not have it – I will need to have another HIV antibody test in 3 months to make sure.  Some people call this the ‘window’ period.  If I have not had any risk exposure in the 3 months prior to the test then I know for sure that I am ‘HIV negative’.

3. For peace of mind

Getting an HIV test can be very scary.  So scary that most of us will never want to really do it.

But if I do not get tested – and I know I have had some kind of exposure – or I am worried that my sexual partner has had some exposure – then that worry will continue to gnaw at me.

Its always better to know the truth!

If I am HIV negative – then I can move on with my life and make sure I do not expose myself again.

If I am HIV positive – then I can also move on in life – I can find out how much the virus has affected my immunity already – and can move forward to get better!

Jesus said at one point: “you will know the truth – and the truth will set you free.”  Knowing about my HIV status gives me the tools to live positively – knowing just what is going on – instead of carrying a huge burden of fear around with me wherever I go.


So what are you waiting for?  If you believe you have had any kind of exposure that could have been dangerous for HIV – then come and get tested for HIV.

We are happy to help you get tested as Jeevan Sahara Kendra is a govt. recognised Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre.   We provide counselling and HIV testing from 10 am to 5.30 PM from Monday to Friday.

If you are coming from outside Thane or would like a Saturday appointment – please call us at 25899248 during office hours!

Look foward to serving you!

HIV and H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu)

July 15, 2010

H1N1 Flu (commonly known as ‘swine flu’) is a seriouis flu disease caused by an influenza virus and has been declared by the WHO as a world-wide pandemic (214 countries as of 2010).  The current pandemic (which was noticed in mid 2009) has killed an 18,000 people world-wide.

H1N1 Flu virus is spread through droplets in the air when people suffering from H1N1 infection cough and sneeze.  The H1N1 virus has shown that it is highly infectious – which is why it has spread so far despite the efforts of governments around the world to protect their citizens from the disease.

While the H1N1 flu is a cause for concern – we need not panic.   The last year’s experience has shown that most people infected with H1N1 flu were able to fight the virus successfully – mostly without special treatment other than the normal steps taken when a person has the flu.   The H1N1 virus did however cause severe illenesses (resulting in deaths when not quickly and intensively treated) in the following at-risk populations:

  • pregnant women;
  • infants, and young children particularly under age 2;
  • people of any age with certain chronic health conditions (including asthma or lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease or some neurological conditions);
  • people with severely compromised immune systems – which includes many people who have HIV/AIDS.

As a nation, India has not been spared.  Starting with infections in mid 2009, over 29,000 known cases of H1N1 were reported – and over 1300 Indians were reported to have died from the flu.  A particularly  high profile case of H1N1 infection was the CM of Gujarat Sri Narendra Modi. Maharasthra bore the brunt of the infections with over 470 people officially recorded to have died of H1N1 flu since August 2009 – the largest number of any Indian state.

As this post is being written (July 14, 2010) we have just heard that 330 new cases were reported across India last week – with 91 of those coming from Maharashtra.

We thus need to protect ourselves from H1N1 – especially if we are HIV positive which means that our immune system is lower than most others – and that we are at higher risk of getting the infection.

How can we prevent H1N1?  Last year – when the papers had reports of daily deaths in Pune and Mumbai – all of Mumbai started wearing surgical masks.  People who could not afford masks wore handkerchiefs or put their dupattas over their faces.  Then after a few days of slightly lower death reports in the papers most stopped wearing them.

How can we best protect ourselves?

Obviously by covering your mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.  That holds true any airborne disease – TB and other viral infections like the common cold spread this way too.  Its just good manners for me to keep the germs that are troubling me to myself.

Here is a little secret – which will do a HUGE amount of GOOD – for both HIV positive and HIV negative people:


Yes that is right!  The flu spreads through the air – but it is usually when we touch the virus with our hands – and then our eyes, nose, or mouth – that the virus is most efficiently transmitted.  So how to break this chain of transmission?  WASH YOUR HANDS!

But how do we do that?  Don’t we wash our hands enough already?

Well, here it is – we need to really scrub.  And we can do so in 6 easy – but thorough steps.   Each one of these steps should be done for at least 30 seconds.   The whole procedure should take enough time for you to sing ‘happy birthday to you’ in your mind – twice!

Have we learned?  Lets do it.

Our health is very precious.  Whether we are HIV positive or not – hand-washing makes a huge impact on our health.  And if we are immuno-compromised with HIV – then it can be the difference between life and death!

Do we want to prevent the spread of H1N1?  Wash hands.  Wash hands.  Wash hands!



But what if I feel sick already – and especially if I know that I have HIV?  What should I do?

Well as you can see from the picture above,  the symptoms of H1N1 flu can include:

+ fever,
+ cough,
+ cold,
+ headache,
+ bodyache,
+ diarhoea and or vomiting,
+ breathing difficulty,
+ drowsyness and or / altered conciousness
Any HIV positive person (child or adult) with 2 of the first and at least one of the second group of symptoms should immediately go to a doctor and be treated with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

For those of us who are living with HIV – we must take our health seriously.  Do not be afraid to go to a doctor for medical advice. The time to treat is now – not later!