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Delhi 'highly vulnerable' to AIDS

Among patients of STDs, while 0.8% were tested positive in 1999, it jumped to 7.4% in 2004, reveals a new report.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2005 12:12 IST

Sending the alarm bells ringing for Delhi, a new report on HIV/AIDS prevalence in the capital classifies it as a "highly vulnerable state" with a major jump in the number of people testing positive for the virus in the high-risk population in the last five years.

Among patients of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), a major high-risk category for HIV/AIDS prevalence, while 0.8 per cent were tested positive in 1999, it has jumped to 7.4 per cent in 2004, according to the report 'HIV/AIDS in Delhi: Meeting the Challenge'.

In another high-risk group -- intravenous drug users (IVDUs), the percentage of HIV infection has gone up from five per cent in 2000 to 17.5 per cent in 2004.

With more than five per cent of the people in the high-risk groups in the capital testing positive, the chartbook terms Delhi not only as a "moderate prevalence state" but also as a "highly vulnerable state."

In Delhi in 2004, it was estimated that 0.3 per cent of adults were infected with HIV. Since 1993, there were 945 reported cases of AIDS.

"It is not an epidemic yet, but the warning sign is there, with the numbers on the rise among the high-risk groups such as STD patients and drug users," Carl Haub, Senior Demographer at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), a Washington-based NGO, said.

He also said that while Delhi has not yet been affected as seriously as some other states in India, but the rate of increase in HIV infections in the capital is alarming.

The report has been jointly prepared by the Population Foundation of India (PFI) and PRB in collaboration with the Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS).

Noting that HIV infection often begins with high-risk population such as men who visit sex workers and needle-sharing drug users, the study states that these groups act as a "bridge" to the general population.

"There are indications that this is now taking place in Delhi, threatening a generalised epidemic," it warns.

However, among the low-risk groups, such as pregnant women, tested over the years for ascertaining the trends on the spread of the disease, the numbers have remained static.

While in 1999, 0.3 per cent of the women in ante-natal clinics tested positive for the virus, the number has hovered around that mark in 2004.

However, Haub said the figures came from just four ante-natal testing sites, noting that for a city like Delhi, where 40 per cent of the population lived in slums, many more testing centres were needed to arrive at the true picture.

"What is distinct about Delhi is its large migratory population, majority of whom live in slums. With half of the growth of the population being due to migration, we need many more testing sites in the capital," Haub said.

First Published: Dec 11, 2005 11:09 IST