Marginal drop in HIV cases in Pondicherry

PONDICHERRY, NOV. 29 . The number of HIV positive cases here has declined marginally in the last four years and the Union Territory is now grouped with other low-prevalence States.

Statistics available with the Pondicherry AIDS Control Society shows that the number of HIV cases has dropped since 2001. In 2001, there were 903 cases reported, 886 in 2002, and 855 cases in 2003. This year till August, only 629 cases were reported.

The sentinel surveillance survey shows that the HIV prevalence rate in the low-risk and the high-risk group has come down. The rate among the low-risk people (general public) was 0.50 per cent in 1998, which has come down to 0.25 per cent in 2002, and remained there for the last two years, Gilbert Fernandez, the project director, Pondicherry AIDS Control Society, told The Hindu .

The prevalence rate among high-risk people (commercial sex workers, people with sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuals and truck drivers), which was 7.20 per cent, came down to 2.02 per cent in 2002.

"The figure for last two years is a little over 3 per cent. The slight increase is because till 2002 only people with sexually transmitted disease were studied. In the last two years we have included commercial sex workers, homosexuals and truck drivers in the study," he said.

Around 7000 people here are HIV positive, of whom 500 have AIDS; some 200 people have died due to the disease so far. The first HIV positive case in the Union Territory was detected in 1987.

Though the number of HIV cases has declined the authorities are not keeping its guard down.

The Union Territory's geographical position, which puts it close to high-risk Tamil Nadu and Yanam, a part of the Union Territory to the East Godhavari district of Andhra Pradesh where HIV is on the rise, is worrying, said Dr. Gilbert

A new intervention programme is being planned for Yanam from next year. A behaviour surveillance survey will also be conducted in Yanam after which a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre will be opened.

The Pondicherry AIDS Control Society will soon embark on another intervention programme among the industrial workers in the Union Territory.

On December 1, World AIDS Day, about 1000 women from various self help groups will take out a rally from Mudaliarpet to Ariyankuppam, here. Around 500 students will go on a motorcycle rally in the Union Territory.

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