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AIDS Spreading Alarmingly in Madhya Pradesh

The rise in number of AIDS patients in the state is attributed to low awareness, cash crunch and an acute lack of infrastructure
Bhopal: The extent of spread of the AIDS epidemic in Madhya Pradesh can be judged from the fact that while there was only one identified AIDS patient in 1988 in the state, the figure has now risen to 2,780, according to state health data.

The Madhya Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (MPSACS) identified 359 AIDS patients in 2005, 350 in 2006, 516 in 2007 and 152 cases were found in the first quarter of this year. The final figures of AIDS patients found this year are yet to be computed, reports IANS.

There are approximately 11,500 HIV–positive people in the state, according to an estimate of MPSACS.

The rise in number of AIDS patients in the state is attributed to low awareness, cash crunch and an acute lack of infrastructure.

Take for instance the case of anti retroviral therapy (ART). Though the state has 11,500 people affected with HIV, ART has been provided to only 1,300 patients.

"Almost all the regions of the state have been affected by HIV and now the dreaded disease has started gripping the rural areas," a survey conducted by the Health Department here said.

"While urbanisation, rapid industrialisation and changing mode of lifestyle were factors contributing to high prevalence in urban areas, traditional practice of prostitution by communities like Bedia, Banchhda and Sansi have added to the woes in rural areas," the survey pointed out.

“Since tradition in these communities demands that the eldest daughter of the family has to go into prostitution to look after the family until her marriage, they work under tremendous pressure,” said Rajiv Lochan, head of Shuruat, a voluntary organisation which had toured the state to spread AIDS awareness.

Having little or no knowledge of AIDS or its prevention or even what venereal diseases are, these communities spread over 24 districts of the state mainly operate in semi–urban areas which are mostly close to highways.

Figures compiled by MPSACS show that 91.7 per cent of the patients in Madhya Pradesh acquire the virus through sexual transmission, two per cent through blood transfusion, 1.8 per cent through prenatal transmission, two per cent through infected injections and 2.5 per cent due to unknown reasons.

“Of these, the disease is more prevalent in males accounting for 72 per cent of the total cases but is percolating to females due to their high vulnerability,“ an MPSACS official said.

District–wise, the state’s commercial capital Indore takes the lead with 564 AIDS cases, while the temple town Ujjain is next with 351 patients.

NGOs working in Indore, Ujjain, Jabalpur, Rewa, Bhopal, Gwalior, Sagar, Hoshangabad and Morena claim the number of AIDS patients in these districts is far higher than the official figures.

Separate surveys across the state conducted by NGOs found a high prevalence of the disease among rag–pickers, children working in dhabas (roadside eateries) between the ages of five and 18, and truck drivers.

Various surveys have pointed out that people between the age of 31 and 40 constitute the largest segment of AIDS patients. Those in the 21–30 age group are also at high risk.

MPSACS is now planning to educate all public representatives about the disease.

“We have prepared an action plan as part of which all legislators, members of district Panchayats and Janpad Panchayats will be sensitised to further the cause of AIDS awareness,” MPSACS Project Director Saleena Singh said.

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