While dedicated treatment centres, mutli-level awareness campaigns, and cheaper drugs have helped in curbing the number of new HIV/Aids cases, doctors in the city feel sustained efforts can ensure that the number goes down further.
According to data from the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS), the number of cases dropped from 5,240 in 2007 to 595 till October this year — a drop of 88.64%. Incidences of Aids death also dropped from 233 in 2007 to 15 this year.
Dr SS Kudalkar, project director, MDACS, attributed the drop in the number of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres across the state, along with availability of cheaper medicines. ART, which is a combination of drugs, improves the white blood cell count or immunity of patients.
“I get at least 10 phone calls every day from people who want to take precautions after unprotected sex,” said Dr JK Maniar, consulting HIV physician at Jaslok hospital.
However, high-risk sections such as commercial sex workers and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community continue to remain vulnerable. While decriminalisation of homosexuality has helped the intervention efforts, experts say a lot needs to be done in matters of social acceptance and stigma-related discrimination. “Although the number of cases has dropped, efforts have to continue otherwise there are chances of more infections,” said Shilpa Merchant, head of Sangini Sanghamitra.
However, there are those who believe that it is too soon for the government to be patting its back. “It is said that for every 100 people who are HIV positive, there are 85 who are not tested,” said Dr Maniar, adding that around 13,000 patients under his care do not feature in government records.
Although, the instances of HIV positive pregnant women have also come down from 0.915 in 2007 to 0.46% in 2010 down to 0.40% in 2011 (till October) (statistic restricted to the women who deliver in public hospitals), mother-to-child transmission is still a problem area, according to the United Nations 2011 Aids report.
The report said maximum cases were reported from the south and the northeastern part of the country.
“We are planning to implement a public-private treaty model with obstetrics gynaecologists in the city who deliver more than 25 babies in a month so that we can test more mothers for HIV,” said Kudalkar.