Guwahati: ‘High-risk’ behaviour amongst people under 50 years has been causing the rise of HIV infected population in the state, said analysis of the official figures of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Assam. While unprotected sexual activities topped the reason behind the rise in infection in the state, drug abuse was also contributing to it.
Official statistics said that in Assam, 81.63 percent of HIV cases were transmitted through sex between heterosexuals, 5.54 percent through HIV-infected syringes and needles; parent to child 4.76 percent, through homosexual route 4.61 percent, and 0.85 percent through blood transfusions. In some 2.61 percent of cases, the reason for transmission was not specified.
On Thursday, as the state observed World Aids Day and the state government opened 10 Opioid Substitution Therapy (OPD-OST) Dispensing Centres for district hospitals across Assam, the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) fact sheet estimated an increasing trend in annual numbers of new infections of HIV positive cases in Assam against decline at the national level.
As per Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS), the state has an estimated 25,073 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) between 2010-2021. Out of them, some 45 percent were female and three percent were children, officials stated.
However, the HIV prevalence rate in Assam was recorded at 0.09 percent, lower than the national prevalence rate of 0.21 percent.
The official further added that the total number of people alive by taking Anti Retroviral therapy (ART) was 10,765 in the state. Kamrup (Metropolitan) district has the highest number of cases at 7,610, followed by Cachar with 5,200, Nagaon with 1,602 and Dibrugarh with 1,402.
The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) data showed that Assam has been able to test 67,15,121 persons (22,22,527 general clients and 44,92,594 pregnant women) till October 31, 2021, and 20,841 cases have been diagnosed as HIV positive, out of which 19,030 were general clients and 1,811 are pregnant women.
Sources added that the HIV case detection graph has been unevenly rising over the past 20 years, reaching a peak in 2019–20 with the highest number of 1,955 new cases. However, it has significantly decreased during the past two years, dropping to 1,288 in 2020–2021 and 1,287 in 2021–2022 (April to October).
The official added, Assam State AIDS Control Society has undertaken various activities to create awareness by disseminating HIV messages in mass media (print and electronic), outdoor media (hoardings, bus and train paneling), folk media, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), activities during festivals, events and HIV awareness in colleges through Red Ribbon Clubs and schools through Adolescence Education Programme.
Last year, during the massive crackdown, Assam police arrested several drug peddlers of whom many turned out to be HIV positive. At least 116 jail inmates have tested HIV positive in various jails in Assam since April 2021.
Significantly, 73.27% of them, nearly 85 cases, were from the special jail and central jail, Nagaon, followed by seven each in Morigaon and Nalbari districts, six in Cachar and four each in Golaghat and Karbi Anglong jails. In Sivasagar, Jorhat, and Darrang jails, one prisoner each has been found HIV positive between April and September.
However, Mizoram accounts for the highest adult HIV prevalence of 2.67% in the country, followed by Nagaland with 1.36% and Manipur with 1.05%, according to officials.