Unprotected sex continues to cause maximum Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) transmission cases in Mumbai, with 2016-17 recording 6,254 such episodes accounting for 93 per cent of total new infections. Data from the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) shows at least 18 people contracted HIV by blood transfusion and 17 other got infected by needles and syringes in last financial year. HIV, an infection that suppresses the immune system, is spread through mother-to-child transmission, infected syringes, blood or blood component transfusion, or through unprotected sexual activity.
Count of new HIV cases has reduced by 44 per cent in Mumbai from 12,014 to 6,723 between 2012-13 till 2016-17. There is further need for advocacy as the new infections remain significant for a city like Mumbai where awareness is relatively high. Data acquired by RTI activist Chetan Kothari showed in 2016-17, of 6,723 new infections recorded by MDACS, 250 cases were of new-born acquiring the viral disease because of HIV infected pregnancy.
MDACS is taking extra measures to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission by testing and treating all pregnant women registered in government hospitals and maternity homes across Mumbai. In 2014-15, data accessed by The Indian Express showed12.08 lakh pregnant women were screened in government centres of which 521 were HIV positive. In 2015-16, 11.2 lakh women were screened and 503 tested positive. The HIV positive pregnant women were put on three-drug treatment (tenofovir, lamivadine, efaverinz) and transmission to newborns was prevented in 98 per cent cases.
The data of cause of HIV transmission is collected through patients who visit Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers (ICTC) for sensitisation. In 2016-17, 6,254 HIV positive patients gave a history of having unprotected sex, a dip from 7,292 cases in 2014-15 and 6,596 cases in 2015-16. In 184 cases, the cause of HIV contraction remained unknown. “Sex education is important. But because it is not imparted actively in schools and parents shy away from such discussions with children, we find it hard to raise awareness on use of protection,” an official from MDACS said.
There is also a slow decline in HIV infections caused by contaminated syringes, needles and blood transfusion. In 2014-15, 90 such cases were recorded in Mumbai that declined to 53 in 2015-16 and 35 in 2016-17. Officials claim this data can not be relied upon as it is based on patients’ account who may sometimes shy away from disclosing HIV transmission through sex.