Srinagar: Kashmir, Jammu, and Ladakh have around 5896 HIV AIDS-positive patients while 1332 have died and 3313 are on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
As per the official figures of J&K State AIDS Control Society (JKSACS), the total People Living with HIV (PLHIV) registered in HIV care across J&K are 5896.
Of 5896, around 1332 patients have died and total LFU (Lost to Follow-up) are 524 till October 22, 2022.
The total PHLIV registered in HIV care at SKIMS, Soura are 703.
Of the 703, 501 HIV cases are men, 158 are women, eight are transgenders, 36 are children including 21 boys and 15 girls.
At least 142 people including adults, transgenders and children have died due to HIV so far.
Twenty-five persons are LFU and 419 are living on ART.
The Government Medical College (GMC), Jammu has registered 4900 HIV positive cases.
Of these, 2913 are men and 1696 women, 280 children, and 11 transgenders. Government Medical College (GMC), Kathua has 293 PHLIV registered in HIV care.
Of these, 136 are men, 141 are women, 16 children.
Eighteen persons have died, six are LFU, and 269 are living on ART. Assistant Director of J&K AIDS Control Society Imtiyaz Khan told Greater Kashmir that these HIV positive cases have been reported during the past 25 years till October 2022.
“We give medicines to 3313 patients who live on ART. We have an ART centre at SKIMS, Soura, Jammu, and Kathua. There are three link ARTs in Udhampur, Rajouri, and Leh," he said. Khan said that there were different aspects of detecting HIV cases.
“There are HIV positive cases using injections like drug abuse cases. There are also cases of commercial sex workers and transgenders, and adults. We have even seen that if pregnant women are HIV positive, their children are also affected," he said.
The SMHS Drug De-addiction Center in Kashmir has recorded four HIV positive cases so far.
Of which two cases were adults and other two were youngsters involved in Intravenous Drug Abuse (IV).
Doctors at the centre said that though there was a less prevalence of HIV positive cases in Kashmir but even minimal cases need to be taken seriously. They said that it was a ticking time bomb, which could explode anytime.
“Drug abuse among the youngsters should be taken seriously and steps need to be taken to stop this menace. If, God forbid, HIV positive cases increase, they will spread like a fire. So, it is very important to stop drug abuse in Kashmir," doctors said.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, a professor at IMHANS, Dr Arshad Hussain said, “Due to the primordial protective mechanisms within the culture we had eluded clear of HIV epidemic till now. But, I am no more optimistic as IV opioid use is already flaring Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B epidemics and HIV is not far away. We need to act and act now."
Another professor at IMHANS, Dr Yasir Hassan told Greater Kashmir that injection drug use had been the principle driver of the HIV epidemic in northeastern states of the country but in Kashmir till date there was a low prevalence of HIV in the community.
“We are safe till date, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t occur in the near future and we should get complacent about it. If, God forbid, this virus will get into IDUs of Kashmir, within no time it will spread like a fire. High risk behaviour like needle sharing is the commonest occurring behaviour in this population and this behaviour will act as a catalyst and HIV infection can spread like a fire," he said.
Dr Hassan said that one more well-known factor – stigma attached to HIV would make it more difficult for treatment seeking which would create further complications and increase the health burden in the society.
"In people living with HIV, substance use can hasten disease progression, affect adherence to antiretroviral therapy (HIV medicine) and worsen the overall consequences of HIV," he said. Doctors said that the need of the hour was the prevention of transmission of HIV in this high-risk group (IDU) through the provision of comprehensive programmes, surveillance, and evidence-based treatment of harm reduction services.
“We at IMHANS De-addiction Centre and ATFs at other district hospitals provide harm reduction services to IDU patients to prevent high-risk behaviours with the foresight of preventing HIV," they said.