The state is looking at measures to educate young married women at the risk of contracting HIV after marrying HIV positive men.
The incidence of HIV positive pregnant women is said to be the best indicator of the prevalence of HIV in the population. Of the 2,027 pregnant women who tested positive in the state between January and October, 978 were first-time mothers and 1,293 were less than 25 years old, shows data released by the Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS). Officials said the data on first-time mothers indicates fresh cases of infection.
"In general, we are able to reach out to 47% of the pregnant women in the state," said Ramesh Devkar, project director, MSACS. "The focus should be on young women so that fresh HIV infections can be prevented." Spouses of 1,403 of the 2,027 HIV positive women were tested and 67% were found positive. "Unsuspecting women may get infected because few people go for HIV tests before marriage," said Dr Asha Hegde, consultant, MSACS.
"Instead of matching horoscopes, people should get HIV tests done before marriage," said Dr Rajshree Katke, medical superintendent of Cama and Albless Hospital.
To contain HIV, activists said, efforts must be made to encourage screening before marriage and to reach out to as many pregnant women as possible.
The MSACS recently rolled out a programme in 10 districts, where health workers did basic screening through a finger-prick blood test for all pregnant women registered at the primary health centres.