The infection rate of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among female sex workers (FSW), men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgenders have declined between 2015 and 2016.
Statistics from Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) reveal that of out of 40,923 people from these groups who were tested in the Integrated Counselling and Testing Center (ICTC) between March 2015 – April 2016, 174 (0.42%) were diagnosed positive for HIV infection. In the previous year, there were 232 (0.66%) positive cases among the 34,641 people who were tested.
But, even as the HIV infection rate among sex workers in Mumbai has been on the decline, the infection is spread through unprotected sex. Dr Padmaja Keskar, project director for MDACS, said that people who visit sex workers should always use condoms. This, she said, can bring down the numbers of people affected by HIV transmission by a large margin. “Even now, people need to be aware of the dangers of having unprotected sex,” said Keskar.
There are about 30 Non-Government Organsations (NGO) and Community-based Organisations(CBO), linked to MDACS that are counselling and helping high risk groups of MSM, FSW and transgenders with their treatment every six months.
Each NGO and CBO attends to about 100 individuals and follows up with them about their antiretroviral treatment (ART) schedules and also spreads awareness about the importance of having protected sex. As per MDACS figures for 2015-16, there are 21,274 female sex workers and 16,235 MSM and transgenders registered with the centers. The data also indicated that 91% of the people who tested positive for HIV, had acquired it through unprotected sex.
Speaking about what the statistics, Dr Srikala Acharya, assistance project director of MDACS, said that it burst the myth that sex workers are a major source of spreading HIV infection among others. She said, “People used to believe that sex workers are responsible for spreading the infection but gradually, we have been able to reduce the prevalence of HIV in sex workers to below 1%.”
“Now it’s the people having unprotected sex who need to use protection to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and HIV from spreading,” added Dr Acharya.