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Pregnant women face HIV threat

- 5916 AIDS cases in Assam since 1990

Guwahati, Nov. 30: Assam has witnessed a rising trend of HIV-prevalence among pregnant women, according to the data released by the Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) today..

Chiranjeeb Bhattacharjee, an epidemiologist associated with the society, said even though the incidence of pregnant women being HIV-positive is not huge, the number is rising continuously and is a cause for concern.

“Pregnant women or those who attend ante-natal clinics are not considered as a high-risk behaviour group. But the situation might be different, if their husbands are in the high-risk group or have unsafe sexual relations with other women, which make married women vulnerable to HIV, in case they become pregnant,” Bhattacharjee told The Telegraph.

He said husbands of HIV-positive pregnant women in Assam are either migrant workers or frequent travellers. Migrant workers or frequent travellers are a high-risk group because they might have sexual relations with other women during their stay outside, he added.

According to the data, there have been 8,580 HIV-positive cases detected in Assam from 1998 to September this year. Out of these, 5,916 are full-blown AIDS cases.

Though Assam is a low HIV-prevalence state, it is considered highly vulnerable owing to its location, socio-economic and cultural factors. Guwahati is a major transit point for a floating population

S.K. Roy, project director, said it was high time for the society to remove the taboo associated with frank and healthy discussion about sex.

“We must be aware of safe and unsafe sex to prevent being infected with the HIV virus. NGOs have a greater role to sensitise people on the issue,” he said.

P.N. Talukdar, additional project director of the society, said HIV or AIDS was now considered to be clinically manageable and a good number of HIV patients are living a normal life with treatment and regular medication.

“We give free treatment to HIV patients. The society even bears the cost of journey that patients undertake to reach government hospitals,” he said.

Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) is a treatment for HIV/AIDS that can prolong and improve patients’ lives and potentially reduce the risk of infecting others.

The ART-plus centres in the state are Gauhati Medical College & Hospital, Silchar Medical College & Hospital, Assam Medical College & Hospital, Dibrugarh and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital in Barpeta.

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