MSACS to reach out to ‘unreached’ high-risk group of sex workers

AIDS control body to focus on sex workers who solicit customers online or via telephone, also plans survey of ‘high-risk’ migrants. The Society has also planned to conduct a survey of the mobile and floating population of high-risk migrants.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: June 28, 2017 10:21:45 am

In an attempt to reduce HIV prevalence in the state, the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) has an ambitious plan of reaching the ‘unreached’ population of sex workers, who solicit customers online or via telephone. The Society has also planned to conduct a survey of the mobile and floating population of high-risk migrants.

Till May-end, as many as 2.18 lakh persons living with HIV were under active care in 73 anti-retroviral treatment centres; of these, 1.89 lakh are on anti-retroviral treatment. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation’s(NACO’s) HIV sentinel surveillance report – 2014-15, the prevalence of HIV in Maharashtra is 0.32.

Of these, as many as 4,253 persons from the high-risk group are HIV positive. These include 3,043 female sex workers (FSWs), 877 men having sex with men (MSM), 299 transgenders and 34 injecting drug users across the state.

“This group is static and they are on our rolls for treatment and intervention programmes. The traditional hot spots of the high-risk group soliciting customers have changed and as part of our targeted intervention programme, we also want to reach out to the unconventional’ high-risk group, which … solicits customers via the telephone,” MSACS project director, Parimal Singh, told The Indian Express.

MSACS officials said they were in the process of restructuring their strategy and were going to team up with Family Health International -360, a human development organisation dedicated to improving lives by locally-driven solutions. A majority of the high-risk group is located in Pune, Thane and Mumbai.

As per the new guidelines, any person who has HIV will be placed on anti-retroviral treatment. Earlier, people living with HIV were put on ART only if their CD 4 count — a test that measures how strong the immune system is — was less than 500. In April and May, as many as 3,791 persons were diagnosed as HIV positive.

“Initially, the newly-tested HIV persons will be counselled about taking life-long drugs, before placing them on treatment,” said Singh.

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