Young Drug Users Forgotten Amid India AIDS Success
June 9, 2011
HIV infection rates in India fell by 50 percent -- twice the global decline -- from 2001 to 2009, according to UNAIDS. Yet health workers there worry that the growing population of young injecting drug users (IDUs) is being marginalized from prevention efforts.
India's 2.3 million reported AIDS cases make it an epicenter of the disease, similar to sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 200,000 Indian IDUs, upwards of 15 percent are HIV-positive, compared to the global average of 10 percent. However, that rate has been recorded as high as 50 percent in some areas.
According to India's UNAIDS Country Coordinator Charles Gilks, young IDUs become especially vulnerable to HIV infection when families banish them to the streets, often forcing them to "resort to prostitution or petty crime to get enough money to service their habit." Under such dire circumstances, needle-sharing becomes commonplace.
Furthermore, Gilks said efforts to provide youths with survival skills to navigate life transitions, such as the onset of sexual activity, get mired in "strong views by different religious communities" about just what exactly "sex education should consist of."
Global statistics indicate that the 2009 antiretroviral access rate of children, 28 percent, lagged behind that of adults, 36 percent. However, from 2008 to 2010, the number of children on antiretrovirals jumped 50 percent to 420,000.
Rajesh Kumar founded India's first juvenile rehab center for Delhi inmates. Legal barriers to testing children without parental consent contribute to the spread of the virus by the undiagnosed, he said. The center uses counseling, medication, and education to help equip the adolescents to reenter society.
"This is one group which needs special attention because awareness level is nil. They do not know about HIV; they do not know the problem of drug-related issues and HIV," said Kumar.
06.07.2011; Sunil Kataria
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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