Even as an approximate 10.54 lakh persons living with HIV are receiving free anti-retroviral therapy services in the country, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has stepped up its focus to reach out to vulnerable groups, like injecting drug users and men having sex with men.
Recently, the Lancet Commission report has raised the issue of the world not being on track to eradicate AIDS by 2030. India has the third largest burden with more than two million people living with HIV and the concern has been raised over the rising trend of HIV infections among the vulnerable groups.
At NACO, officials said that seven per cent of an estimated population of 20,000 IDUs had HIV and the trend was now visible in the Northeastern states of Mizoram, Manipur and Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand among others.
Most recent data obtained from the National AIDS Control Organisation’s HIV sentinel surveillance, 2016-17, shows that HIV in India remains concentrated in the vulnerable population groups.
HIV prevalence was 1.6 per cent among female sex workers, 2.7 per cent among men having sex with men, 3.1 per cent among eunuchs/transgender and 6.3 per cent in IDU compared to 0.28 per cent among pregnant women attending ante natal care clinics.
When contacted, Dr Samiran Panda, the director of National AIDS Research Institute said Indian data from NACO indicates that overall, there is a decline in the number of new infections. However, there is a rising trend in certain states with the highest HIV prevalence in IDUs and transgender populations.
“The targeted interventions project has been able to address needs of the marginalised section but still, it is difficult to reach certain pockets — for instance sex workers who operate outside the brothels,” Panda said.
According to NACO, the coverage of targeted intervention programme varied in vulnerable populations across the states. Eunuchs/transgenders were covered under the programme in 17 states and the coverage was lowest in West Bengal (15 per cent).
However, among the states with an estimated eunuch/transgender size of 1,000 or more, the targeted intervention coverage was highest in Maharashtra (more than 95 per cent), Karnataka (95 per cent) and Delhi (72 per cent). Among injecting drug users the coverage was 9 per cent in Haryana and 19 per cent in Tamil Nadu.
The highest number of People living with HIV who were on ART were in Maharashtra (2.18 lakh), followed by Andhra Pradesh (1.54 lakh), Karnataka (1.40 lakh) and Tamil Nadu (1.02 lakh).