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HIV moms rock health cradle

- State & Tatas team up in industrial belt, awareness rallies for women to mark World AIDS Day

Ranchi, Nov. 30: The horror virus is creeping up Jharkhand’s health graph every minute, silently mocking campaigns and counselling across the globe on the eve of World AIDS Day.

Worse, it is taking a piggyback ride on pregnant woman — besides wilful or ignorant adults — and threatening to alter the state’s low HIV prevalence status in the very near future.

According to the Jharkhand State AIDS control Society (JSACS), 1,806 new HIV cases have been detected till September this year against just 378 in 2007. The worrying number is only expected to swell given that by the end of 2011, the virus had infected as many as 2,023 people and 1,643 the year before.

“There has been a surge in the number of HIV victims in the past five years (see chart) if cases registered at different government health centres across the state are taken into account. What is most concerning is the transmission of the virus from mother to child, which can be entirely prevented,” said Dr Birendra Prasad, the additional project director of JSACS.

Unfortunately, a dismal 8.4 per cent of pregnant women were tested for HIV this year.

“Till September 2012, 66 would-be mothers were found to carry the virus. The point is only 69,200 of the total 8.2 lakh pregnant women in the state underwent examinations. So, we do not know what the status of the others is,” Prasad expressed his concerns.

According to the latest (2008) WHO and UNAIDS global estimates, women comprise 50 per cent of people living with HIV.

To prevent innocent infants from becoming victims of HIV, JSACS has decided to focus on women & AIDS this year by hosting awareness rallies in the state capital and other districts tomorrow. A programme will also be organised at the Sri Krishna Institute of Public Administration (Skipa) to delve into ways to prevent the pandemic.

The objective of the society, Prasad emphasised, was “getting to zero” — the international theme for World AIDS Day 2012. It means ensuring no new HIV infection or death due to AIDS, and achieving zero discrimination.

The sole solace for Jharkhand is that adult HIV prevalence in the state is 0.13 per cent compared to the pan-India figure of 0.31 per cent, according to a 2010 report of the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco).

Statistics attribute the decrease in adult HIV prevalence rate in the country to declining new infections in high-prevalence states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Nagaland. But, on the other hand, the adult infection rate in low-prevalence states like Jharkhand, Odisha, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya has increased in the past four years.

Incidentally, Jharkhand has 64 integrated counselling and testing centres for HIV, six anti-retroviral treatment (ART) centres and 17 link-ART centres. It also boasts 42 blood banks, 24 of which are in the government sector.

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