The incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Indian armed forces is a mere 0.028 percent as compared to the national average and efforts are being made to reduce this even further, the military's top doctor said Thursday.
"Contracting HIV/AIDS is not a crime. Not reporting it is a crime," Surgeon Vice Admiral Vijay K. Singh, director general of the Armed Forces Medical Services, said at a briefing here.
The national average of the incidence of HIV/AIDS was 0.9 percent, he said.
"We are spreading the message that if treatment is started within 24 hours, 100 percent success is guaranteed. Even if there is delay in starting treatment, all is not lost," he said.
Pointing out that the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the US armed forces was 0.026 percent, Singh said this was due to compulsory screening that the Indian government had now been asked to enforce.
Even so, Indian soldiers going abroad on UN peacekeeping missions are screened before their departure and return.
"During the last two years, medical officers from the battalion level upwards have been regularly giving lectures to the troops and screening films for them on the hazards of unprotected sex. We are even providing free condoms to soldiers," Singh pointed out.
"I can say with confidence that deaths due to HIV/AIDS are almost nil. In the near future, we hope to insulate the armed forces from the scourge of HIV/AIDS," he added.
The briefing was called to announce the 15th Asia-Pacific Military Medicine Conference being held here March 26-31. It is to be attended by some 500 delegates, half of them from India, and also from abroad, including the US, Australia, Pakistan and China.
"This is part of a continuing series of conferences for military medical professionals in the Southeast Asian and Pacific regions to promote cooperation and collegial fraternity among them," Singh said of the event, being co-hosted by the Honolulu-based US Pacific Command.
"This exchange of information seeks to increase knowledge and understanding among medical professionals of different countries in areas like combat, medical support, clinical research and preventive military medicine," Singh added.