Tribal dominated Chhattisgarh is likely to emerge as a high risk AIDS prevalence state in the country due to its geographical location, poor awareness and backwardness, believe health experts.
What's troubling health experts is that it may further snowball into tuberculosis-HIV co-infection. TB still causes most deaths in Chhattisgarh.
“With development, the essential efforts should also be enforced for prevention of TB and AIDS”, said Dr DS Sonwani, state tuberculosis officer underlining the significance of linkage between the two diseases.
Tuberculosis and HIV may result into a deadly co-epidemic. The HIV/AIDS is a greatest risk factor for the development of active TB and fuels a resurgence of the TB epidemic in areas of high HIV prevalence.
With state health department rating barely six districts out of the eighteen in Chhattisgarh as educated on AIDS awareness, the persisting rampant migration of people creates fertile ground for HIV infection. Further, Chhattisgarh shares its geographical borders with states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh,West Bengal and Orrisa, which are high AIDS prevalence states.
Officially, Chhattisgarh now has over 2000 cases of recorded HIV +ve with around 383 confirmed AIDS patients. “The statistics on HIV/AIDS and deaths owing to it is just the tip of an iceberg”, admits State AIDS Control Programme Project Director, Dr RK Rajmani.
Now with TB becoming a leading cause of illness and death among people living with HIV/AIDS, the Chhattisgarh began linkage between TB and HIV/AIDS this year. But it is yet to be strengthened as official data and preliminary surveys are missing.
Dr SK Anum, Secretary, Chhattisgarh Fellowship of College of General Practitioners (CGFCGP) told Hindustan Times that it is frightening to observe that no concrete measures are being implemented on the ground to contain the possible spread of AIDS/HIV and TB in Chhattisgarh. “With health infrastructure yet to reach remote areas and failure of health department to use Information, Education and Communication (IEC) effectively, its regretful to see very little being done to assess the vulnerability the state is prone to”, said Dr Anum, adding that the information on AIDS and TB is highly under-reported and the ground reality could be mind- boggling.
Another health professional with practice of more than a decade serving TB patients in Chhattisgarh, Dr Anurag Bhargava feels that the state is yet to initiate its serious preparation to meet the frightening challenge of HIV syndrome and its association with TB. “Chhattisgarh’s situational assessment on TB & HIV/AIDS remains poor since sufficient collaboration between state TB & HIV/AIDS cells does not exist”, he asserts.
In the Chhattisgarh context Dr Mahindra Pal, formerly associated with AIDS Society and a renowned health consultant, reveals more un-addressed aspects. He suggests that besides the coordination of TB and HIV resources there is a need to strengthen prevention and care networks to sustain TB-HIV services, particularly to improve access to early treatment and care for HIV infected persons.
According to health officials the state health department is to enter into understanding with the NACO for the third phase of implementation of AIDS control later this year that will take care of linkage in a better way. They believe that control efforts over the linkage between the TB & HIV/AIDS would then be also seen at the operational levels.
The state health minister Dr Krishnamurthy Bandhi informs that the government would chart-out a five-year action plan to counter AIDS vulnerability and related threats.
Dr Rajmani further avers ‘Chhattisgarh into its seventh year has installed just one Anti-Retroviral Treatment Centre (ART centre) in the Medical College at Raipur this year’. Now in just a few months around 300 patients are now seeking therapy from ART Centre (a ray of hope) could now be anybody’s guess about the enormity of the problem.
Chhattisgarh is yet to see a beginning of a community care centre on linkage programme of AIDS & TB. Most of the detected HIV positive cases, after giving them formal counseling, are referred outside the state for treatment, it was told.