Mumbai: Maharashtra has the largest number of HIV-positive children in the country with fresh cases increasing 10-fold in the last three years.
Data released by the Union health and family welfare ministry shows 11,938 new cases were registered between November 2006 and May 2009, or 22% of India’s HIV-positive children.
But government officials insist there is no need for alarm. They attribute the dramatic rise in cases to better medical infrastructure for detecting HIV. They point out that the number of Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTCs) for HIV increased from 1,476 to 5,155 in the last three years. The number of Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) centres which provide care and detect new cases also increased from 52 to 217. Incidentally, the largest number of ART centres are in Maharashtra.
“With more facilities for testing, the number of newly-detected HIVpositive children increased from 2,253 in November 2006 to 52,973 for all of India in May 2009,” said a health ministry official.
The jump has been especially sharp in Maharashtra where only 453 new cases of HIV-positive children were detected in 2006. The same number increased by more than 10 times to 4,714 in 2008. And this year 1,269 fresh cases have already been detected until May. The government has admitted that the prevalence of HIV is especially high in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Doctors explain that the major source of infection in children is through vertical transmission of the HIV virus from an HIV-positive pregnant mother to the infant. To arrest this trend, the Union government started a programme in 2002 to provide both prophylactic medicines and counselling to HIV-positive pregnant women. In 2008, 4.1 million pregnant women were counselled and tested across India. Of these, 19,986 were found HIV-positive.
But despite the rise in number of fresh cases, the government claims there has been a “stabilisation of the HIV epidemic”. “The prevalence rate of HIV has reduced from 0.45% in 2002 to 0.34% in 2007. States like Maharashtra have also shown a decline in HIV prevalence rates,” a central government official said.
Source: Times of India