World AIDS Day: Assam Categorized As Low HIV-Prevalence State

World AIDS Day: Assam Categorized As Low HIV-Prevalence State

Juthika Baruah

Acquire immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People infected with AIDS/HIV have always been neglected by the society saying that the disease is communicable. But now is the time to make the society aware that the inequalities should be ended. The World AIDS Day, which is celebrated every year on December 1 has been observed today with the theme 'End Inequalities, End AIDS, End Pandemic'.

World AIDS Day, is an opportunity for the community to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to show support for those who have been diagnosed and to remember those who have been lost to the disease.

World AIDS Day is not just about raising awareness of global AIDS statistics (although very important) but it's about teaching the public the truth about the virus, how its spread, its symptoms and treatments. World AIDS Day is also a solid reminder that we still need to fight the stigmas attached to an HIV/AIDS diagnosis.

HIV is a sexually transmitted infection which can also spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast feeding.

AIDS is not curable, but medications can dramatically slow the progression of the disease. How can we celebrate World AIDS Day? How can we contribute to the efforts to raise awareness while remembering those who have passed? You can wear a red ribbon, share the cause on social media and most importantly educate yourself.

World AIDS Day: HIV Scenario in Assam

Assam is categorized as a low HIV Prevalence state with an estimated adult HIV Prevalence of 0.09% which is lower than the National Prevalence of 0.22%. It is estimated that Assam had 1330 new HIV infections in 2019 (NACO HIV Estimations report 2019). The report also states that Assam had an estimated 21,223 people living with HIV (PLHA) in 2019. Assam is also a highly vulnerable state for HIV transmission because of the following reasons:

1. It is the gate-way of the northeastern states.

2. It is surrounded by three high prevalence states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya.

3. Large number of young population from the state is also going to large cities for employment and get involves in high-risk behaviour.

4. Assam has a large private health sector which caters to all the northeastern states.

5. Large number of female migrants from other northeastern states, West Bengal, Nepal who has come to Assam for Employment and education and gets involved in risk behavior favorable for HIV transmission.

National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) data shows that, Assam has 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 numbers of cases has been diagnosed as HIV Positive out of which 19030 are General clients and 1,811 are pregnant women.

In Kokrajhar district, 312 people are currently infected with AIDS. Dr. Kaushik Das of Kokrajhar RNB Hospital while speaking on World AIDS Day said that the cases of AIDS have increased compared to earlier years. Dr. Das said that 69 people have been diagnosed with AIDS this year including teachers.

Dr. Das further stated that, Kamrup and Cachar districts in Assam have highest number of AIDS cases.

HIV Scenario at the Regional Level

The northeastern part of India comprises of some high HIV prevalence states and some low HIV prevalence states. Mizoram has shown the highest estimated adult HIV Prevalence in the country at (2.32% [1.85–2.84%]) in 2019 followed by Nagaland (1.45% [1.15–1.78%]) and Manipur (1.18% [0.97–1.46%]). The other North Eastern State with an estimated adult HIV prevalence that was higher than the national average included Meghalaya (0.54% [0.46– 0.63%]). Similar to the rest of the country, these high prevalence states has shown a declining trend in HIV prevalence whereas some of the low prevalence states Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh are showing a rising trend in the recent years.

HIV Testing Centre in Assam

Health Minister Keshab Mahanta while speaking on World AIDS Day said that there are currently 430 HIV testing centre operating in Assam. "Earlier 39 NGOs were working for HIV but now the numbers of NGOs have increased up to 51. The state government is planning to make the state free from AIDS/HIV," the health minister said.  

World AIDS Day is not a one day programme, it is a yearlong programme and we are all warriors in the fight against HIV. Praising the efforts undertaken by ASACS for prevention and control of HIV, the Minister said, "Over the years facilities for testing and treatment of HIV has increased. There are 39 Targetted Intervention (TI) NGOs working in the HIV programme and recruitment of 12 new TI NGOs are in the process. There are 7 Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) Centres very soon the ART Centres at Diphu Medical College and Golaghat Civil Hospital will be made functional. There are 3 Opioid Substiution Therapy Centres and 3 more will be established in Nagaon, Golaghat and Dibrugarh." He also spoke about the prison intervention where HIV testing is done amongst jail inmates in World AIDS Day.

He further said, "When COVID-19 first came there was discrimination amongst people but now there is no discrimination and same is the case with AIDS. Today the level of discrimination has come down." He said that even HIV-related death rate has come down because there is  treatment.

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