In the absence of vaccine against HIV/AIDS, the 'social vaccine' of mass awareness needs to be strengthened to prevent spread of the deadly virus, a top UN official here said Saturday.
"Social vaccine is the main weapon to fight against the HIV/AIDS," said Peter Piot, executive director of United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS.
"By social vaccine I mean to create a mass awareness to educate the people about the killer disease and on how to prevent it" said Piot, who was member of a delegation on a daylong visit to Bihar along with Suma Chakrabarti, permanent Secretary, Department for International Development (DFID) of Britain.
Bihar is a focus state for both DFID and UNAIDS. "The latest study showed that Bihar is vulnerable to HIV/AIDS due to poverty and large-scale migration from the state" he said.
The UN official said the message has to be simple: "Maintain a responsible sexual behaviour, be faithful to your sexual partner and use condom during sexual encounter".
"If the people know how to protect themselves, we will win the battle against HIV/AIDS in India and across the world," Piot told IANS.
"Action is needed to tackle stigmas and discriminations faced by people living with HIV/AIDS", for which he emphasised the need to involve the peoples' representatives particularly at the panchayat level in the rural areas.
The delegation interacted with elected representatives in the state and later met Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
According to official figures, 1,078 people among Bihar's over 83 million population are infected with the virus - but AIDS campaigners claim the figures are under reported.
India has an estimated 5.7 million (5.2 million in 15-49 year category) AIDS infected people, of which 39 percent are women, the world's second highest after South Africa.