The adult prevalence of HIV in Tamil Nadu continues to maintain its steady decline trend.
A State, which in the past had among the highest rates in the country, has a current prevalence rate of 0.28 per cent (in 2011), just above the national rate of 0.27 per cent.
The benefits are said to accrue from years of targeted intervention, focussing on high risk groups, including female sex workers (FSW), men having sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users (IDU), transgenders, truckers and HIV-positive pregnant women.
The prevalence rate is highest among the transgender group (3.82 per cent), FSW (2.69 per cent) and MSM at 2.4 per cent for 2011, according to official data.
In comparison, prevalence among ante natal mothers, who attend clinics, considered as proxy for the general population, is rather low at 0.38 per cent. In fact, it is the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme, and its successes that have come in for praise in the international arena.
Preventing the transmission of infection from the positive mother to the newborn is seen as key in bringing down the number of cases to zero, say officials.
In Tamil Nadu, it declined from 0.63 per cent (mean) in 1994 to 0.35 per cent in 2008–2009.
In fact, the theme the State is working on, in tune with the national agenda, is to prevent any further new infections.
“There is enough evidence to suggest that Tamil Nadu is well on track to achieve the global targets of Zero New Infections, Zero AIDS-related deaths, and Zero Discrimination,” a health department official says.
Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), however, say discrimination remains a huge nightmare for them, even as they deal with issues of poverty, opportunistic infections, inadequate nutrition, legal issues and access to health and drugs.
In fact, it is among the loudest demands of PLHIV that the long-pending HIV/AIDS Bill be passed in its original form.
Daisy David of World Vision India, a PLHIV herself, says,
“Unless the Bill is passed, we will never have any security, no one to stand up for our rights. It is absolutely important that we have a law to protect us.” Not only will it ensure rights, but will also contribute towards reducing the epidemic, Reni Jacob of World Vision India added.