HIV+ Numbers in City See Negative Growth Times of India
26 November 2010
By Malathy Iyer
AIDS Cases & Deaths Have Fallen Steadily Over Last 5 Yrs
HIV/AIDS epidemic appears to be slowing down in Mumbai as well. For decades the city was infamous for being the HIV capital of India, but figures available with the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society show that for the third consecutive year the HIV incidence is falling.
If 5,420 AIDS cases were registered in 2007, there were only 2,942 cases in 2008 and 1,308 cases in 2009. "So far this year, we have registered 966 cases," said MDACS chief Dr S S Kudalkar, adding that the epidemic is clearly on the wane.
The city has many reasons to cheer on the HIV/AIDS front. Many of the indicators that are used to assess the epidemic’s spread in the general population show a downward trend. The virus is lower than ever before among pregnant women, dipping from 1.24% in 2005 to 0.53% in the first 10 months of 2010. Public health experts say this unsuspecting segment provides the best indicator of the disease’s presence in the general population.
People who queue up voluntarily to donate blood provide another indicator of HIV’s presence in the society: seropositivity has fallen from 1.06% in 2002 to 0.46% in 2009. In the period up to October 2010, only 903 from 2,19,332 donors tested positive for HIV. "This means only 0.41% were positive," said Kudalkar.
But the statistic that the MDACS director is most pleased about is the dipping number of deaths among HIV–positive people whose disease progressed to full–blown AIDS. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, say in 2004, the death rate stood at 8.67% among the 3,205 AIDS patients identified that year. This year, the rate has fallen to 3.7%–that is, 36 deaths among 966 patients. "It is obvious that with better availability of ART (anti–retro viral therapy), patients are leading healthier and longer lives than before," said Kudalkar.
The downward trend in Mumbai is not surprising as the recently released United Nations AIDS organization’s figures show. Globally, HIV infection rates have fallen by nearly 20% in the last 10 years to 2.6 million in 2009 from 3.1 million in 1999. Also, AIDS–related deaths have come down by 20% in the same period across the world. UNAIDS showed that India has 2.4 million HIV patients at present. The only factor clouding the happy picture is the fact that though seven lakh HIV–positive Indians need ART, less than half have access to it.
In Mumbai, ART access improved only because more centres started distributing the life–saving drugs in the last few years. In Mumbai, MDACS statistics show that 24,086 of 52,828 HIVpositive patients registered for care in the city received ART in the period between 2006 and 2010.
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