In the last six years, the number of new HIV infection cases in Pune has dropped by almost 50 per cent. In 2012, 2,808 people were living with HIV in Pune whereas from January till October this year, the Pune City AIDS Control Society has detected 1,416 new cases of HIV infection.
December 1 marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, which is designated to raise awareness about HIV and the resulting AIDS epidemic. According to the World Health Organisation, since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people across the world have been infected with the virus, and about 35 million people have died of AIDS. Today, around 37 million people worldwide live with HIV, of whom 22 million are on treatment.
By the end of 2017, an estimated 21.40 lakh people were living with HIV in India, as per various surveys. “Prevention is the only way to fight AIDS,” Dr Suryakant Deokar, AIDS nodal officer and secretary of Pune City AIDS Control Society, told The Indian Express. The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘Know your status’, he said.
Officials of the Society said despite the decline in the number of new HIV infections, there was a need to step up information, education and communication services for groups that were at high risk of contracting the infection, such as transgenders, sex workers, men having sex with men and intravenous drug users. Authorities also face challenges of identifying such high-risk groups.
According to the state HIV Sentinel Surveillance, which tracks the epidemic in the country, the estimated HIV prevalence in 2016-17 in female sex workers was 3.48 per cent, while it was 4.69 per cent in men having sex with men. “Last year, we were able to test the blood samples of 129 transgenders in the city, and eight were found to be HIV positive. This year, from January till October, we were able to test blood samples of 21 transgenders, and 13 were found to be HIV positive,” said Deokar.
Community testing has to be a crucial part of the process, he said. To raise awareness about the disease, the Pune City AIDS Control Society has held meetings with truck drivers and organised an awareness campaign to encourage transgenders to undergo screening and blood tests. “We have also organised a series of events on the occasion of World AIDS Day,” he said.
Over 10 crore Condoms Distributed Across State
* There were 15,119 new HIV infection cases across the state this year, said officials of the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS). The number doesn’t cover HIV cases in Mumbai. “We are carrying out targeted intervention projects for the high-risk groups through NGOs ,” said a MSACS official. “For instance, free condoms are provided to the high-risk groups. We distributed 10,14,85,800 condoms from April till October this year across the state via targeted intervention projects,” added the official.