November 30, 2007
H/l: State anything but protected from AIDS threat
Intro: Drop in HIV prevalence among pregnant women; but rise in numbers among CSWs and male homosexuals. Fresh HIV+ infection every 20 seconds
Mumbai: Probably due to wide publicity and free distribution of contraceptives such as condoms, people in Maharashtra are at least more aware of HIV and AIDS, and there is a discernable drop in HIV prevalence among pregnant women as compared to year 2004-2005.
However, what is alarming is that the state registers a fresh HIV infection every 20 seconds, and is still ranked second, along with Karnataka, in the numbers of HIV-infected persons found. As per the 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update issued by the UN and WHO, “Data from extended sentinel surveillance for 2006 shows declined HIV prevalence among pregnant women in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, but a higher prevalence among sex workers, and rising numbers of cases among injecting drug users and men having sex with men in these states.”
Even more worryingly, evidence points to higher figures of HIV prevalence in the western belt of Maharashtra, and also in areas of high industrial activity. The Health Education To Villages (HVET), an initiative in collaboration with the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI), states that apart from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra state shows the fastest transmission numbers for the virus.
The HVET’s explanation for the high numbers of HIV-positive persons in the state is that Maharashtra experiences a high 41 per cent of migrations annually, especially to the cities. Due to this or otherwise, the state has one of the highest numbers of HIV-infected commercial sex workers (50 to 60 per cent) and a huge 24 to 40 per cent hospital bed occupancy by HIV positive persons.
Maharashtra has registered higher numbers for adult HIV prevalence for the ages 15 to 49 for both sexes, at 0.62 per cent, higher than the national average of 0.36 per cent, as outlined in the National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS 3). In this respect, the state has outranked Uttar Pradesh (0.07%) and Tamil Nadu (0.34%).
On the upside however, more people are now aware of the AIDS menace, as compared to previous years. As per NFHS 3, a high 89 per cent of urban women and 70 per cent of rural women are aware of HIV/AIDS, while 97 per cent urban men and 80 per cent rural men are aware of these. Condom use has also shot up in the state, and the primary sources of information are mass media.
- First HIV positive case in India reported in 1986
- Predominant route is hetero-sex
- 30 to 40% males above 16 years of age sexually active
- Most well established sex industry in state (brothel to non brothel)