Even though 31.6 per cent of people living in cities in Maharashtra know someone affected by HIV, majority believe that they are unlikely to contract the disease themselves, states the Behavioral Surveillance Survey 2009, which was released on Friday.
The report, commissioned by the Avert Society, an NGO working in the field of HIV AIDS, stated that only 3.1 per cent of all the respondents perceived that they are at risk of HIV.
The survey revealed the attitudes and awareness levels of people across the state towards issues related to HIV AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STI).
Among those interviewed, were people belonging to high-risk groups such as commercial sex workers, men indulging in gay sex, injected drug users, clients of sex workers, truck drivers and helpers and migrant workers. On the whole, there were 29,220 interviews conducted in the state for the survey.
“The prevalence rate of HIV in Maharashtra is much higher than the national average. This along with the fact that people from all over the country want to migrate to Mumbai makes the state extremely important for us,” said Aradhana Johari, joint secretary of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
Though most people interviewed have heard of HIV and AIDS, are aware of modes of transmission and know that things such as shaking hands, sharing clothes or food does not spread the virus, 56.3 per cent of urban Maharashtra is unwilling to even shake hands with a HIV positive patient.
This social stigma associated to the disease is a major reason why few people voluntarily get themselves tested for the virus; the number being as low as 32.6 per cent.
The report recommends an increase in the use of billboards and banners to create awareness about HIV AIDS and its treatment, as 80 per cent of people interviewed were exposed to information about the disease through this medium.
Maharashtra contributes to 20 per cent of the total HIV patients in the country and though the prevalence rate has reduced from 1.08 per cent in 2002 to 0.61 per cent in 2008, the absolute numbers may have gone up due to increasing population, states the report.