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Ranchi tops climbing HIV figures

Ranchi, Oct. 12: There are around 11,000 HIV-positive people in the state now, around 1,200 to 1,500 more from the figure complied two years ago.

And if the city is the state capital, the district is the HIV capital, though the prevalence of AIDS continues to be low in Jharkhand.

The ongoing assessment or data compiling exercise undertaken by Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society (JSACS) reveals no room for complacency, said JSACS additional project director Birendra Prasad.

Of the 24 districts, Ranchi clocked the highest number of HIV patients with 3,133. Jamshedpur, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad and Giridih followed suit. “I’m yet to get the exact break-up of all figures. But yes, Ranchi has the highest, closely followed by Jamshedpur with around 2,500, Hazaribagh 1,400 and Dhanbad-Giridih close to 1,000,” said Prasad.

Of the 11,000, the records of the status and whereabouts of 9,000 are available with the JSACS, with many getting treated at various anti retroviral therapy (ART) centres of the state. But alarmingly, 2,000 people are “missing”.

They could have migrated to some other place, might go untreated and act as carriers of the virus.

On the bright side, Chatra is lowest on the list of districts with only eight persons detected so far. And Jharkhand is way below the national prevalence rate of AIDS.

“AIDS and HIV are two different things. A person who is HIV-positive is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. When this virus destroys the body’s immunity, the person has AIDS. In India, 3.3 persons per one lakh population suffer from AIDS. In Jharkhand, it is 1.13 per one lakh population,” Prasad said.

But he also cautioned that with rising figures there was no room for complacency. “Around three or four years ago, there weren’t so many cases. We have to accept that rising figures pose a big challenge for us. The rate of transmission of HIV in our state seems to be increasing,” Prasad said.

HIV isn’t detected at one go. Body fluids need multi-level screening to confirm presence of the virus. So, if anyone is detected at the block level, he or she is referred to a bigger district or state hospital.

“Many times, if some cases are detected in a remote location, the patient doesn’t go to the next centre, which may be in a city. Fear, ignorance, lack of money for travel and a fatalistic attitude are some reasons. Many people may not understand the implications of being HIV-positive. Over a period of time, they migrate to other places for employment and become unknowing carriers of the virus,” Prasad said.

On why cities such as Ranchi and Jamshedpur lead HIV-positive scores, he said most ART centres, where counselling-cum-treatment happens, were in cities. For instance, an HIV-positive person from Bundu is treated as a Ranchi case.

As of now, ART centres are located at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi, MGM Medical College and Hospital in Jamshedpur, sadar hospital in Hazaribagh and Patliputra Medical College and Hospital in Dhanbad.

“When persons are found HIV-positive, they are immediately referred to ART units in cities. Figures ballooned as we started collecting figures from ART centres,” he said.

But, ART centres are needed to be set up in all districts to get a more balanced picture of the concentration of HIV-positive people across the state. “We are now starting a new ART unit in Giridih in around two months at a cost of Rs 4 lakh. We are slowly trying to have ART in all districts,” he said.