HIV prevalence in J&K 7 times lower than national average
The number of new HIV infections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2017 was 213, the lowest in recent years and seven times lower than the Indian national average for the year, a government reports says, but the rate of decline is still worrying.
A recent HIV estimation report published by national AIDS control society (NACO) puts J&K at the bottom of the list of Indian states in terms of adult prevalence of the life threatening viral infection.
The prevalence of HIV in adults in the state is seven times lower at 0.03 percent than the national average of 0.22 percent.
Highest prevalence HIV was recorded in Mizoram at 2.04 percent.
Although the prevalence of the deadly infection was low in J&K, however, the rate of decline in new infections was not as good as other states.
In J&K, there was a decrease of 9 percent in new infections in 2017, compared to 62 percent in the neighboring state of Haryana.
The NACO report reveals that the annual detection of new infections in J&K has just stabilised since 2012, but in many states new infection rate was going down fast.
In the reference year, in J&K, transmission of HIV infection was prevented from 37 HIV positive mothers to their babies.
Medical professionals say it was due to awareness and medical advancement that HIV positive women are able to come forward and seek medical intervention to prevent mother-to-child infection.
In J&K over 900 women are living with HIV.
The NACO report does not give a region-wise break up of HIV prevalence, but officials in JK state AIDS control society (JKSACS) said Jammu had much higher prevalence as compared to Kashmir division.
According to official figures there are around 2200 people living with HIV in Jammu division and 300 in Kashmir division.
Officials at JKSACS say, over the years increase in awareness regarding HIV had reduced the incidence of infection among high risk groups.
"Now people, especially the high risk groups are aware to a certain extent about how to prevent HIV infection," Dr Mushtaq Ahmed, director JKSACS said.
Ahmed said, over the past few years blood banks in Kashmir were being augmented to reduce chances of infection through blood transfusion.
"We are trying hard to make safe blood available," he said.
Doctors say that availability of triple serology kits, which help in detection of HIV infections in patients undergoing a surgical procedure, and among pregnant women needed to be made mandatory and readily available in all hospital settings.
"Only caution and vigil can help us keep HIV at bay in J&K," a senior doctor in SMHS Hospital said.
There are 36 integrated counseling and testing centers in J&K, 20 in Kashmir division and 16 in Jammu division to provide an array of services for HIV awareness, detection and treatment. In addition there are two opium substitution therapy centers (OST) in the state to prevent HIV infection spreading in drug abusers.