Navi Mumbai’s population is barely a tenth of that of Mumbai, but the number of deaths owing to AIDS in the last four years is about 42% more than those reported in Mumbai.
Data shared by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) reveals that the city has reported 432 AIDS-related deaths compared to 304 deaths reported in Mumbai since 2008.
Experts in the satellite city working for HIV awareness attribute the high mortality rate to lack of follow-up treatment by HIV-positive patients.
Many patients do not seek the free anti-retroviral therapy (ART), said experts. “There is a large migrant population in Navi Mumbai and it is highly difficult to follow-up with them as they keep returning to their home town. While there are many who do not follow-up on the ART treatment, some of them simply refuse to accept they are HIV-positive,” said Kulsum Sheikh, project manager at Arphen, a non-governmental organisation working with migrant workers.
While Mumbai has an evolved HIV prevention, care and treatment programme since 2004, Navi Mumbai’s programme is just developing. As compared to 10 ART centres in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai has just one centre at NMMC Hospital, Vashi.
Under the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Programme, Navi Mumbai falls under Thane district, which has four ART centres.
NNMC officials said their programme has been effective as the number of HIV-positive cases in Navi Mumbai has decreased. “The treatment provided to HIV patients here is effective and our working has also been appreciated by the government,” said Dr Ramesh Nikam, NMMC health department chief.