Ahead of AIDS Day on December 1, civic officials said the number of new Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases in high-risk groups such as woman, man, and transgender sex workers has decreased significantly. Officials said Mumbai has reported a 33.6% decline in the number of new HIV cases in the past five years. They attributed this decline to increased screening of suspected HIV patients.
The number of new patients detected with HIV dropped from 8,593 in 2013-14 to 5,702 in 2017-18. During the same period, officials from Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) improved their population screening base by 40%, covering 3.9 lakh patients in 2017-18 from 2.8 lakh in 2013-14.
“HIV epidemic in India is known as ‘concentrated epidemic,’ where the infection is focused in high-risk groups from where it spreads to a bridge population such as slum population, migrants and sex worker visitors. The bridge population further spreads the infection to pregnant women and their children,” said Dr Sri-kala Acharya, assistant director, MDACS.
Acharya said a robust intervention in high-risk groups through condom distribution, half yearly HIV and sexually transmitted disease detection camps and awareness campaigns with the helf of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)have resulted in containing infection to existing patients in high-risk groups.
The civic body is also planning to open two antiretroviral treatment (ART) centers at Byculla Jail and Arthur Road jail, so HIV patients under incarceration can avail treatment immediately.
However, Vivek Anand Raj, director,Hamsafar Trust, rubbished the numbers presented by MDACS.
“The statistical improvement might be true, but it only reflects the change in traditional HIV focus groups where intervention programmes have been exhausted in the past two decades. There is a large section of society, which is using mobile applications, social media and parties to connect with each other. This group is yet to be a part of the surveillance and intervention programme,”