‘Drug addicts, truck drivers susceptible to AIDS’

‘Social taboo attached with disease turning patient into ticking bomb’
‘Drug addicts, truck drivers susceptible to AIDS’
Representational pic

Drug addicts using injectables, truck drivers and vendors working in outside states are most susceptible to the HIV in Kashmir even as J&K has the lowest number of patients infected with the deadly disease across the country.

As perofficial data at least 5002 patients infected with the AIDS were registeredwith J&K Aids Control Society. Of the total number of patients only 303 arefrom Kashmir.

The society's data shows more men were affected by thedisease than women.

A Society official said they have found that most number ofpatients tested positive for HIV in J&K were drug addicts usinginjectables, truck drivers, migrant labourers and Kashmiris selling shawls andother handicraft items in outside states.

"It is a new challenge for us particularly," said theofficial.

The AIDs (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) has consumed1,061 lives in J&K, as per the data of the Society.

"We have the lowest cases of HIV in entire country. The casesare the lowest in the Valley," said the official.

The official said drug users particularly infected with thedisease were being treated at OST (opiad substitution therapy) treatmentcenters.

The HIV transmits through three main causes including unscreenedblood transfusion, use of unsterilized syringes, and through unprotectedcohabitation or through various bodily fluids.

The disease is curable through anti-retroviral therapy (ART),where a patient has to take medicine for entire life.

J&K has two ART centers – one at SKIMS hospital andanother at Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu.

Besides, the Society hasestablished Integrated Counseling Testing Center (ICTC) in every tertiary carehospital and district hospitals. The Facility Integrated Counseling TestingCenter (FICTC) have also been set up at primary health care (PHC) level. Thetesting, treatment and counseling is provided free of cost to the patients atthese facilities.

However, according to the Society the worry is that thedisease was still being considered as "taboo" preventing the patients todiscuss it with family or doctors and hence acting as "ticking bombs" andmaking lives of other susceptible as well.

Another official at the Society recalled the case of a youngwoman (identity withheld) who was tested positive for HIV.

The patient was referredfor treatment to Anti-retroviral Therapy Center at SKIMS where she wasrecovering well, said the official.

However, the officials said, the patient suddenly stoppedcoming to the center and they lost contact with her.

"More than a year later, the patient contacted us to tell usthat she got married and was expecting. She hadn't disclosed her disease to herhusband owing to the fear of being chastised," said the officials, adding thepatient did not only put her own life at risk by stopping treatment, but shealso put life of her husband and child in danger.

 "This kind of attitudeis making a patient a ticking bomb," said the official.

The Society officials said they were creating awareness aboutthe HIV informing people that a patient can live a normal life if given propermedication. However, he said, lot of efforts were needed to weed out"unnecessary social stigma" attached with the disease.

"We are now trying todisseminate information through religious clerics about the disease. That iswhy we have chosen this year's theme on World AIDS Day as 'Community makes thedifference'," said the officials.

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