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Assam records rise in HIV cases

Guwahati, March 19: Assam has recorded a “relatively greater increase” in HIV prevalence between 2006 and 2009, according to the Technical Report, India HIV Estimates 2010, which was released last month.

The report compiled by the National AIDS Control Organisation and the National Institute of Medical Statistics has stated that among the “low prevalence states” in the country, there has been a “relatively greater increase” in adult HIV infection in Assam between 2006 and 2009.

Jharkhand and Odisha are also in the “relatively greater increase” bracket, compared to other “low prevalence states” such as Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Kerala.

The report concludes that the spread of HIV in the “low prevalence and vulnerable states” must be thwarted through sustainable effort and investment on prevention, coupled with innovative strategies.

The National AIDS Control Organisation has categorised the states and Union territories of the country to high, moderate, and low prevalence zones.

Six states Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu were classified as “high prevalence states” in 1998.

The states and Union territories of Gujarat, Goa and Puducherry were classified as moderate prevalence states.

Excluding the six high prevalence states and three moderate prevalence states and Union territories, the remaining are considered “low prevalence”.

Even though Assam is a low prevalence state, it is considered a highly vulnerable one, considering its location, socio-economic and cultural factors. “Since Assam is the gateway to all the other northeastern states and Guwahati acts as a major transit point for people who are mobile and form the floating population, the geographic position of the state, in particular, predisposes vulnerability. Also, it borders the high prevalence states of Manipur and Nagaland,” an official of Assam State AIDS Control Society said, requesting anonymity.

Jahnabi Goswami, a member of the Indian Network of Positive People, however, said Assam has shown an increase in HIV prevalence because of improvement in facilities to detect HIV in the past few years.

She said because of rise in awareness among people about HIV, more people are coming forward to seek counselling and testing for HIV.

At present, there are 166 HIV testing centres in the state.

“However, the situation in Assam is still not as alarming as in Manipur and Nagaland,” Goswami added.

According to the Assam State AIDS Control Society, Assam is estimated to have around 9,000 HIV infections while the NGOs put this figure at around 20,000.

The chairman of the AIDS Prevention Society, an NGO, S.I. Ahmed, also attributed the increase in HIV cases to the rise in the number of integrated voluntary counselling and testing centres in the state.

The first HIV positive case in Assam was reported in September 1990.

According to the state AIDS Control Society estimates, till March, 2009, 3,236 HIV-positive cases, 859 AIDS cases (648 males and 211 females), including 149 deaths, have been reported in the state.

Sexual transmission is the main route of infection (82.05 per cent), followed by parent-to-child transmission (5.22 per cent), infected needles and syringes (4.32 per cent) and blood (1.61 per cent).