With events and functions to mark the World AIDS Day on December 1 fresh in memory, it will perhaps be instructive to remember that Amritsar tops the state in number of AIDS cases with more than 10,000 reported so far this year of the 2,85,664 tested. Last year, more than 9,735 cases were reported.
Amritsar is followed by Patiala, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, respectively in the number of cases.
District health officials have attributed the increased number of cases to increasing awareness among the public about prevention of the disease or getting it diagnosed and treated in time to prolong their lives and lead a normal life, and the consequent ease in maintaining records of patients.
Sources said that as far as Punjab is concerned, a number of HIV-AIDS cases were related to the use of infected needles, fact that is often emphasized at functions.
Sources said that of the cumulative 3,063 deaths on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) reported till October 2013, more than 3,000 have been reported in Amritsar, which brings the annual tally to around 300.
In 2011, Amritsar led the state with 8,828 cases being tested HIV positive at the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC). The district registered 223 deaths during ATR, the highest in the state, followed by 207 in Tarn Taran.
More than 1,79,266 suspected cases were tested at the ICTC in the district.
Amritsar has only one ART Plus Treatment centre, which besides catering to the local populace has to handle the rush of patients from Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur as well.
Dr Kiran Sikri, Senior Medical Officer, Community Health Centre, Verka, said prevention was the best cure as far as HIV-AIDS is concerned.
"Prevention requires awareness, which comes from having complete knowledge about the reasons behind the occurrence of HIV-AIDS and the measures that need to be taken to keep it bay," she said.
She maintained that efforts were being made to disseminate information about the disease and modes in which it can be prevented through seminars and street plays. "Efforts are being made to reach out to everyone right from educated residents in the most visited areas of the city to uneducated people in remotest villages of the district. This serious issue requires consistent and careful handling," she said.
If Rajiv Chaudhary, Manager, Project Akshay, is to be believed, there is a connection between HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis.
"TB tests are mandatory for the HIV-AIDS affected persons, while HIV-AIDS tests are needed for those diagnosed with TB," he said. He added that the main challenge associated with the treatment of HIV AIDS was the reluctance on the part of the affected persons to get themselves tested on account of the social stigma still associated with the ailment.
Deepak Babbar, Director, Mission Aagaaz, an NGO dedicated to environmental affairs, which regularly holds seminars on
HIV-AIDS, said that efforts were being made to promote the use of natural herbs among the HIV-AIDS patients to boost up their immune system.
"HIV-AIDS has a negative impact on the immunity of the affected persons. Hence, our NGO is making efforts to promote the use of plants like 'Tulsi' and 'Curry Leaves', which help enhance the immune system," he said.