A staggering number of around one lakh HIV-AIDS positive people are availing the anti-retro viral therapy (ART) in government medical facilities of Maharashtra, which is the number two state in the country in prevalence of the dreaded disease.

Maharashtra, which comes next to Andhra Pradesh in HIV-AIDS prevalence -- accounting for 18 per cent of the afflicted population in India -- has launched a multi-pronged drive to curb the menace, initiating various steps under the National Aids Control programme, said Dilip Deshmukh, Additional Project Director, Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS).

“The high prevalence districts in Maharashtra besides Mumbai, include Sangli, Latur, Pune, Satara and Kolhapur.

Efforts are on to curb transmission of the infection from high risk groups (HRGs), which consist of sex workers, truckers migrant labourers and drug users, to the common population,” he told PTI.

Deshmukh said HIV positive people are now coming out of the closet to register themselves with government agencies and NGOs to avail the ART, which is being provided free of cost at various government and civil hospitals throughout the state.

The widespread network of the affected people was proving to be effective in fighting the stigma attached to their status in society, he said.

“Another challenge the health officials are facing is of ending discrimination in rural schools against children with HIV positive status. The health directorate has launched a drive to sensitise health care providers, workers, NGOs operating at village level. Parents and teachers are being involved in this exercise.”