30 November 2011
By Sumitra Deb Roy
The Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) is relieved about the sharp fall in the incidence of HIV but admits that a few vulnerable pockets continue to be there. This is because the incidence of HIV in high–risk groups like migrants, men having sex with men (MSM) and intravenous drug users continues to be an inconsistently rising trend. E s t i m at e s indicate that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in MSM population has not remained consistent over the years. While the numbers have definitely come down from a 24% incidence in 2000 to at least half of that, the graph has been hovering between 6% and 10% every year. For
instance, it had gone down to 6% in 2005 but spiralled to 7.6%, 8.6% and 9.2% in the following three years. Estimates with the state government suggest that despite all efforts, the HIV status of only 39,572 MSM is known. Of this, appropriate medical care and prevention services are yet to reach about 4,000 men. Project director of MDACS, Dr S S Kudalkar, said, "We are trying to reach out to as many people with the help of our NGOs. But, beyond a point we have to leave it to their close–knit community to spread awareness and come forward for testing."
Calling it a multi–faceted issue, an HIV consultant and senior doctor at KEM Hospital said many men were unaware about their HIV status. "They end up infecting their wives too. Teaching them prevention measures remain extremely important," he said.
Besides MSM, the swelling numbers of intravenous drug users (IDU) have become a cause for worry. The incidence has risen from 12.80% in 2005 to 21% till 2009. "Figures for 2010 are being complied, but it seems to have come down to about 6–7%," said Kudalkar.
Among other high–risk groups, the state is yet to reach out an estimated 16,461 female sex workers, 8.8 lakh migrants and 10,000 truckers.