India: Alarm Over HIV in New Areas
June 29, 2007
Alarmed by the increasing numbers of pregnant women with HIV, Indian health officials are urging state governments in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar to "stem the epidemic."
Sujatha Rao, head of India's National AIDS Control Organization, said results from a countrywide survey found more than 1 percent of pregnant women in the UP districts of Etawah, Banda, and Lalitpur were HIV-infected. A high number of pregnant women with HIV was also detected in the Lakhiserai and Saharsa districts of Bihar.
Rao said Tamil Nadu is another high-prevalence state, but what makes the situation far more serious in UP and Bihar is their poor health care systems. In the two northern states, most HIV/AIDS cases go unreported due to the heavy social stigma attached to the disease, said Rao.
The slow response of the two state governments is a concern, said Rao. UP and Bihar have "not realized" the seriousness of the problem, but "we remain hopeful," she said.
According to R.P. Mathur of the UP AIDS Control Authority, the main group driving the state's epidemic is migrant laborers. Also, he said, "there is a shift from the urban to rural and from high-risk to low-risk categories."
Bihar AIDS Control Authority representative Vishal Singh said similar patterns are occurring in his state. "[Migrant laborers] get infected in industrial cities like Surat and return home to Bihar and have unprotected sex with their wives. This has to be controlled," he said, calling on the more-developed states to provide HIV education for laborers working there.
But Rashmi Sharma of the Population Foundation of India said migrant laborers are not solely to blame. "The problem lies within the community and they have to be involved in looking for a solution," she said.
05.30.2007; Sunil Raman
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.